How Marguerite LeHand Shaped the Franklin D. Roosevelt White House


During the New Deal, Eleanor Roosevelt redefined the role of first lady and Frances Perkins broke ground as the first woman in the cabinet. And then there was Marguerite LeHand, whose official position was personal secretary to the president, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

But a new book, Kathryn Smith’s “The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency,” and the private letters and other documents on which it is in part based, reveal that LeHand’s unceremonious title masked the outsize role she played. (Just like Perkins, she was a secretary, as most people understand the job title, in name only.)

LeHand was also Roosevelt’s companion, confidante, adviser and hostess at the White House and at Warm Springs, in Georgia. She counseled him on cabinet and court appointments and was the only staff member who referred to him as “F.D.” She also, at times, had the sole authority to forward a call at night to his bedroom, as she did when her fiancé, Ambassador William C. Bullitt Jr., telephoned from Europe in 1939 to report that Germany had invaded Poland.

Read More in the New York Times


“The End of a Dream”: Harvard, Imperialism, and the Spanish American War (Fall 2018)


“We are now engaged in cursing out the sacredest  thing in this great human world — the attempt of a people long enslaved to attain freedom and work out its own destiny.”  William James

“America has lost her unique position as a leader in the progress of civilization, and has taken up her place simply as one of the grasping and selfish nations of the present day.”  Charles Eliot Norton

We are false to all we have believed in. This great free land which for more than a century has offered a refuge to the oppressed of every land, has now turned to oppression.” Moorfield Storey

It has been a splendid little war, begun with the highest motives, carried on with magnificent intelligence and spirit, favored by that Fortune which loves the brave.”  Secretary of State John Hay to Theodore Roosevelt

The Spanish American War, Harvard, & the Rise of American Empire

The Spanish American War of 1898 lasted barely ten weeks and is largely forgotten today, but the conflict was one of those rare nexus points in history that shaped the destiny of four continents. In Spain, the sudden loss of almost all colonial territories generated a national crisis of confidence that set the stage for the Spanish Civil War. In the Caribbean, Cuba began the long journey to Castro and beyond. Puerto Rico half-lurched into the American confederacy — its future still not resolved today. In the Pacific, the US became an uncomfortable colonial power in the Philippines, ostensibly under the banner of high altruism, but in reality motivated by poorly disguised commercial and strategic interests — a fact not lost on Harvard academics like Charles Eliot Norton and William James, who mourned the war as the end of the American dream. TR and his Great White Fleet, the naval race between Great Britain and Germany, the Panama Canal, FDR’s views on naval power and US involvement in WWI and WII, the rise of modern journalism, even the role of Harvard as a center of global policy — all these and many other seemingly unrelated events can trace their origins directly back to a fateful day in April of 1898.

Join us in 2018 on the 120th anniversary of the Spanish American War as the Foundation takes a multi-disciplinary look back at ten weeks that forever changed the modern world.

 


Fireside Chat: First Feminist? Eleanor Roosevelt and Women’s Rights 11/6


When her husband came out for women’s suffrage in 1911, Eleanor Roosevelt proclaimed herself “somewhat shocked as I had never given the question serious thought.” She was never a member of the Woman Suffrage Party, yet she was an avid supporter of the Women’s Trade Union League and the League of Women Voters. In the 1920s she opposed the Equal Rights Amendment, led by Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman. In her first book, Its Up to the Women, published in 1933 as her husband assumed the presidency, Roosevelt wrote that she was not interested in the abstract idea of equality with men. It did not really improve women’s ability to change society. So, was Eleanor Roosevelt a feminist? Or something else?

 

About the speaker: CYNTHIA M. KOCH is Historian in Residence and Director of History Programing for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foundation at Adams House, Harvard University. She was Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York (1999-2011) and subsequently Senior Adviser to the Office of Presidential Libraries, National Archives, Washington, D.C. From 2013-16 she was Public Historian in Residence at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY where she taught courses in public history and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Her most recent publications are “They Hated Eleanor, Too,” “Hillary R[oosevelt] Clinton,” “Demagogues and Democracy,” and “Democracy and the Election” are published online by the FDR Foundation http://fdrfoundation.org/.

Previously Dr. Koch was Associate Director of the Penn National Commission on Society, Culture and Community, a national public policy research group at the University of Pennsylvania. She served as Executive Director (1993-1997) of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and was Director (1979-1993) of the National Historic Landmark Old Barracks Museum in Trenton, New Jersey.

7 PM, FDR Suite (B-17), Adams House

Please note: this signup is filled, but an additional date has been added, Sunday, 11/5 at 7PM. All are welcome but should the second date fill, preference will be given to undergraduates. Sign up HERE


His Bravery Unsung, Varian Fry Acted to Save Jews


The American journalist Varian Fry in 1967. He helped artists like Marc Chagall and Marcel Duchamp escape the Nazis during World War II

In June of 1935, two years after the German government falsely portrayed the burning of the Reichstag as a Communist plot to overthrow the state and just at the moment that it had banned all but “Aryans’’ from serving in the military and made homosexuality a crime, Varian Fry, a young Manhattan editor who was preparing to take over a magazine called The Living Age, traveled to Berlin.

About one month into his stay, he witnessed a night of gruesome rioting in which Jews were kicked, bloodied and spat on, leaving him to provide one of the earliest accounts of Nazi cruelties in the American news media. Relaying his observations to The Associated Press, Fry remarked that the police “nowhere’’ seemed “to make any effort whatever to save victims from this brutality.’’ Occasionally, he said, “they attempted to clear areas for motor traffic,’’ or to keep people from congregating in front of beloved cafes, but “that was all.’’ The crowds — made up of people young and old, well-bred-looking and common — chanting “‘The best Jew is a dead Jew,’” he continued, conducted themselves as if “in holiday mood….’’

Read more in the New York Times