14 Jul MARGARET (DAISY) SUCKLEY. COMPANION TO FDR II
FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, A VERY LONELY PRESIDENT, RELIED UPON DAISY FOR HIS COMPANIONSHIP AND COMFORT.
“Margaret Suckley was Franklin Roosevelt’s closest companion during the last years of his life. No one was more often with him during World War II.” She was acutely and consistently concerned about Franklin’s well being. (1)
Daisy was unmarried, a Hyde Park neighbor, and a distant cousin of FDR. She “was no raving beauty but not unattractive, small, petite, with prominent cheekbones, and a well shaped mouth.” With FDR, Suckley was relaxed, displayed a sharp mind, and provided a keen wit. Current with the latest gossip among the Hudson River gentry, she amused the president by telling tales about his Hyde Park neighbors. (2) The pair’s comfortable familiarity with each another is apparent in her diary entry of May 12, 1942, after their lunch and a drive in his car, “I had a lovely time alone with the P…I am proud that he does relax with me.” (3)
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was away far more often than she was home during her husband’s historic twelve plus year presidency. Consequently, Roosevelt’s loneliness was much commented upon by intimates and sharp-eyed observers. One referred to FDR, “as the loneliest man in the world.” Suckley corroborated this observation, “He has no real home-life on which to relax, & recoup his strength & his peace of mind.” (4)
Whenever FDR was in need of feminine companionship, either at Hyde Park or in the White House, Daisy would be invited to a private dinner or for a drive in his specially equipped automobile. She (and others) accompanied him on two extended wartime military inspection trips, on a train excursion to Mexico to meet with its president, and as a guest at his Warm Springs, Georgia, polio rehabilitation spa. Daisy was with the president at Warm Springs when he died from a massive cerebral hemorrhage in April, 1944.
FDR’s famous Scotch Terrier, Fala, was a gift from Daisy. Proofs of their intimacy are the only two extant photographs of Roosevelt in a wheel chair, both taken by Suckley (5). Whether or not there was a sexual relationship between the couple is unknown, although it was hinted at by Geoffrey Ward (6) and explicitly suggested in the movie, Hyde Park on Hudson.
Two additional women served as Surrogate First Ladies: Roosevelt’s long time executive secretary, Missy LeHand, and during the last year of his life, his daughter, Anna. The stories of both will appear in subsequent posts.
1. Geoffrey Ward (editor and annotator), Closest Companion (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995) ix.
2. Joseph E. Persico, Franklin & Lucy (New York: Random House, 2009) 281-2.
3. Ward, 159.
4. Ibid, 201.
5. Ibid, following 208.
6. Ibid, 34.