Lehand, Marguerite (Missy)
LEHAND, MARGUERITE (MISSY)
Officially, Marguerite "Missy" LeHand (September 13, 1898–July 31, 1944) was Franklin D. Roosevelt's confidential secretary from 1920 until 1941. Unofficially, she was much more. At a time when personal secretaries were often "office wives," she performed many tasks commonly associated with spouses including handling Roosevelt's finances, overseeing domestic help, and serving as his hostess when Eleanor Roosevelt was away. LeHand's proximity to Franklin D. Roosevelt, coupled with her skill, judgment, and tact, also made her an influential player in his inner circle, particularly after he became president. Beyond this behind-thescenes influence, she became a public figure in her own right. The New York Times reporter Arthur Krock even described her as the president's conscience, a title usually applied to Eleanor. Certainly Franklin D. Roosevelt relied on LeHand's abilities. He also counted on her companionship. Historians have speculated about the exact nature of their relationship, but most agree that LeHand devoted her life to Roosevelt. Her closeness to him inevitably caused tensions with Eleanor, but for the most part the two women maintained an amicable relationship.
LeHand was born in Potsdam, New York, and was raised in Somerville, Massachusetts. After graduating from high school and secretarial school, she worked in a variety of clerical and secretarial jobs before joining the Democratic National Committee's staff in 1920. There she met Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was then running for vice president. After losing that race, he hired LeHand to help him with his mail. She soon began to under-take other duties and quickly became indispensable, especially after Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921. Serving as a combination secretary-housekeeper-hostess, she accompanied him on his travels as he sought to regain his health, and she actively opposed his return to public life because she feared it would impede his recovery. However, once Roosevelt decided to run for governor of New York in 1928, LeHand supported his career, moving into the governor's mansion and later the White House.
The physical and emotional demands of working around the clock for Roosevelt ultimately undermined LeHand's always fragile health. She suffered two minor breakdowns in the 1920s. In each case, she recovered quickly. However, a severe stroke in 1941 left her an invalid. Although he paid all her medical bills and provided for her in his will, Roosevelt saw LeHand only occasionally after her stroke. When she died of a cerebral embolism in 1944, he did not attend her funeral.
See Also: ROOSEVELT, FRANKLIN D.
Lash, Joseph P. Eleanor and Franklin: The Story of Their Relationship, Based on Eleanor Roosevelt's Private Papers. 1971.
Scharf, Lois. "Marguerite 'Missy' LeHand." In Franklin D. Roosevelt: His Life and Times, An Encyclopedic View,edited by Otis L. Graham and Meghan Robinson Wander. 1985.
Mary Jo Binker