Margaret Suckley

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Margaret Suckley
Born Margaret Lynch Suckley
(1891-12-20)December 20, 1891
Rhinebeck, New York
Died June 29, 1991(1991-06-29) (aged 99)
Rhinebeck, New York
Education Bryn Mawr College (1912–1914)
Occupation Presidential library (archivist)
Parents Robert Bowne Suckley
Elizabeth Philips Montgomery

Margaret Lynch Suckley (pronounced Sook-lee; December 20, 1891 – June 29, 1991) was a sixth cousin, intimate friend, and confidante of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, as well as an archivist for the first American presidential library.[1] She was one of four women at the Little White House with Roosevelt in Warm Springs, Georgia, when he died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1945.

Early life[edit]

Suckley was born December 20, 1891 at Wilderstein, the family home of Robert Bowne Suckley and Elizabeth Philips Montgomery in the Hudson Valley. She was the fourth of seven children, and a sixth cousin of Franklin D. Roosevelt.[2][3] Generally called "Daisy" by those close to her, Suckley grew up at Wilderstein, where she was a neighbor of the future president. She attended Bryn Mawr College from 1912 until 1914, when her mother forbade her from finishing her degree.[4] During World War I she served on Ellis Island as a nurse's aide.[5] Much of her family's trade and shipping fortune was lost during the Great Depression, but she and Franklin Roosevelt remained close.[6]

Association with Roosevelt[edit]

In the early 1930s, Suckley and Roosevelt spoke of having a cottage built at a shared favorite spot they called "Our Hill", which eventually became Roosevelt's Top Cottage.[6] Two of the rare photographs of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a wheelchair were taken by Suckley there.[6]

Suckley raised Scottish terriers and gave one to President Roosevelt, which he renamed Fala. The dog quickly became famous, and Suckley wrote a children's book about him.[7][8]

During World War II, Suckley often stayed for long visits at the White House, keeping the president company. Although Roosevelt is known to have had an affair with Lucy Mercer during World War I, there is no direct evidence that he had a similar relationship with Suckley,[6][9][10] although there was an emotional connection.[9][10] Roosevelt apparently instructed Suckley to burn at least some of the letters he wrote to her,[6] which has fueled speculation about their content. Surviving letters include affectionate personal remarks, as well as reports and reflections about the progress of the war and meetings with figures such as with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference.[6]

After Roosevelt died, his daughter Anna Roosevelt Halsted and a friend came upon a cache of Suckley’s letters, hidden in the box from his stamp collection that Roosevelt took everywhere with him. There is no indication that Halsted read the letters or understood their significance; she returned them to Suckley.

After Roosevelt's death[edit]

Having served as Roosevelt's personal archivist, Suckley played a key role in setting up the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, where she worked until 1963.[4]

In 1980, she helped establish Wilderstein Preservation Inc, a group dedicated to preserving the house and 45-acre riverfront property of her family home, now a National Historic Landmark.[5] She continued to live at Wilderstein until her death.[6]

Suckley died on June 29, 1991 in Rhinebeck, New York,[5][11] at the age of 99.[12]

In popular culture[edit]

Numerous newspaper articles have also been published about Suckley, and have speculated about her relationship with Roosevelt.[6][9][10] Suckley's relationship with Roosevelt has been the subject of a non-fiction book by Geoffrey Ward.[13]

The relationship is also the subject of a play by Richard Nelson titled "Hyde Park-on-Hudson", based on Suckley’s private journals, which portrays their relationship as sexual. A production of it was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in 2009.[14] The story was adapted into the 2012 motion picture Hyde Park on Hudson, starring Laura Linney as Suckley and Bill Murray as Roosevelt.[15][16][17][18]

Suckley is featured prominently in Ken Burns' series The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. Her words are read by Patricia Clarkson.[19]


  1. ^ "Margaret Suckley", The Washington Post, Jul 3, 1991 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Black, Allida (Apr 9, 1995), "In Love With the President", The Washington Post 
  4. ^ a b "Wilderstein Mansion, Rhinebeck New York". Historic Structures. 3 March 2010. Retrieved 25 November 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c Fowler, Glenn (July 2, 1991), "Margaret Suckley, 99, Archivist And Aide to Franklin Roosevelt", New York Times 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Ireland, Barbara (September 7, 2007), "At the Home of FDR's Secret Friend", New York Times, retrieved May 12, 2010 
  7. ^ Suckley, Margaret (1942), The True Story of Fala, Charles Scribner 
  8. ^ Pycior, Helena (2010), The Public and Private Lives of "First Dogs", University of Virginia Press 
  9. ^ a b c Starr, William (April 9, 1995), "New Woman Surfaces as FDR Intimate", The State (Columbia, SC) 
  10. ^ a b c Swindell, Larry (May 7, 1995), "Papers found after Margaret Suckley's death reveal deep friendship with FDR", Fort Worth Star-Telegram 
  11. ^ "Margaret L. Suckley FDR Confidante", Miami Herald, July 2, 1991 
  12. ^ Margaret Lynch "Daisy" Suckley at Find a Grave
  13. ^ Ward, Geoffrey (1995), Closest Companion: The Unknown Story of the Intimate Friendship Between Franklin Roosevelt and Margaret Suckley, Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-66080-7 
  14. ^ Hyde Park-on-Hudson, BBC 
  15. ^ Osenlund, R. Kurt (September 25, 2012). "Hyde Park on the Hudson Review". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 6 December 2012. 
  16. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (December 5, 2012). "Hyde Park on the Hudson Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 6 December 2012. 
  17. ^ Scherstuhl, Alan (December 5, 2012). "In Hyde Park on Hudson, It's Patriotic to Pleasure a President". The Village Voice. Retrieved 6 December 2012. 
  18. ^ Reed, Rex (December 4, 2012 at 4 3:47pm). "A Wet, Hot American Summer: Hyde Park on Hudson Lets FDR Shed His Stuffy Layers". The New York Observer. Retrieved 6 December 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  19. ^ "Overview: The Roosevelts". Retrieved September 20, 2014.