By: Antoinette Cea and Duane Paul Murphy
On Wednesday September 7th the Barnes and Nobles at The Catholic University of America hosted a book reading and interview featuring author Kathryn Smith and her 2016 novel The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Partnership That Defined a Precidency.
The Gatekeeper is a biography on Marguerite “Missy” LeHand, who was an important member of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration and personal life.
Smith herself is a journalist and historian specializing in the life, politics, and administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The reading was in conversation with Catholic University of America Politics professor John Kenneth White.
“I was very pleased with Barnes and Nobles that they are doing this,” White said. “It was a terrific event.”
The Gatekeeper follows the life of Missy LeHand, who came from a working class family from the suburbs of Boston. She went to school to become a secretary and eventually became Roosevelt’s personal secretary.
She lived in the White House during his presidency, and became a very close personal friend and advisor to Roosevelt. “That proximity gave her tremendous power once he became president,” White said.
Contemporary history paints a negative view of LeHand typically, accusing her and Roosevelt of an affair. In The Gatekeeper, Smith seeks to abolish negative views of LeHand and credit her as being one of the first extremely important women in American politics.
Students of The Catholic University of America as well as local residents of the Brookland area gathered at the event.
Thomas Doyle, a Politics major from Catholic University was shocked at what he learned from the event.
“I thought it was a really great interview,” Doyle said. “It’s great learning about these somewhat forgotten characters of history that played really significant roles. It’s important to learn about them.”
Smith said she enjoyed the discussion and reading at the Barnes and Nobles.
“It was wonderful,” Smith said. “A very responsive audience. I love to answer these questions. Every audience has a little bit of a different twist.”
Smith also gave advice to those pursuing academic and historical truths.
“Be prepared to do a lot of research, and be prepared for surprise,” Smith said. “I had a very different view before than I do now.”
Other students such as Chris Doyle, an English and Drama double major, were also shocked at the life of LeHand.
“FDR is probably one of my favorite heroes in American democracy,” Doyle said. “I am ashamed to say I did not know anything about Missy before I came here.”