A Woman to Know: Marguerite "Missy" LeHand

The first thing for a private secretary to do is study her employer. — Missy LeHand

(image via Library of Congress)


On paper, her title was simple: Personal Secretary to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But in practice, in the work she did and the staff she martialed, Marguerite "Missy" LeHand commanded a formidable position in FDR's White House. According to modern scholars, she essentially did the work of a White House Chief of Staff -- and while never made official by title, that means she was the first woman to do that work. Also, yeah, she was doing it in one of our country's most tumultous periods: amidst The Great Depression, The New Deal and the start of World War II.

When Missy fell ill in 1941, FDR rewrote his will: leaving half to his wife Eleanor, and half to Missy's estate. When she passed away in 1944, the White House statement echoed the Roosevelts' deep admiration for their longtime companion: "She was utterly selfless in her devotion to duty. Hers was a quiet efficiency, which made her a real genius in getting things done."

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