The Gatekeeper

Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency

The Gatekeeper

The “fine biography” and “compelling personal story” (The Wall Street Journal) of arguably the most influential member of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration, Marguerite “Missy” LeHand, FDR’s de facto chief of staff, who has been misrepresented, mischaracterized, and overlooked throughout history…until now.

Widely considered the first—and only—female presidential chief of staff, Marguerite “Missy” LeHand was the right-hand woman to Franklin Delano Roosevelt—both personally and professionally—for more than twenty years. Although her official title as personal secretary was relatively humble, her power and influence were unparalleled. Everyone in the White House knew one truth: If you wanted access to Franklin, you had to get through Missy. She was one of his most trusted advisors, affording her a unique perspective on the president that no one else could claim, and she was deeply admired and respected by Eleanor Roosevelt.

With unprecedented access to Missy’s family and original source materials, journalist Kathryn Smith tells the “fascinating” (Publishers Weekly) and forgotten story of the intelligent, loyal, and clever woman who had a front-row seat to history in the making. The Gatekeeper is a thoughtful, revealing unsung-hero story about a woman ahead of her time, the true weight of her responsibility, and the tumultuous era in which she lived—and a long overdue tribute to one of the most important female figures in American history.
  • Touchstone | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501114977 | 
  • June 2017
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Gatekeeper includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Kathryn Smith. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Franklin D. Roosevelt’s personal secretary for more than twenty years, Marguerite “Missy” LeHand was one of his most trusted advisors and the gatekeeper to the Oval Office. Widely considered the first (and only) female presidential chief of staff, she has largely been ignored or misrepresented by historians and filmmakers. Now, in the first biography about LeHand, journalist Kathryn Smith shares the full story of Missy’s unique place in political history. Drawing on original, never-before-seen source materials and interviews with LeHand’s family, Smith presents a thoughtful, revealing portrait of this remarkable woman and a fresh perspective on Roosevelt’s presidency.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. How much did you know about Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency before reading The Gatekeeper? Has seeing Roosevelt from Missy’s perspective altered your opinion of him as a president and as a man? How so? Did anything you learned surprise you?

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About the Author

Kathryn Smith
© John Fowler

Kathryn Smith

Kathryn Smith is a journalist and writer with a life-long interest in FDR and his circle. She has lived all her life in Georgia and South Carolina, and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Georgia. She worked as a daily newspaper reporter and editor, and has been the book columnist for the Anderson Independent Mail for twenty years. She has been involved through Rotary International in the worldwide effort to eradicate polio, called PolioPlus, and she has lectured and spoken on FDR’s leadership in that arena. Smith is the author of an oral history of World War II told by living veterans and civilians called “A Necessary War.”