As the Watergate Hotel reopens, we remember one of the most colorful characters in its history: The "Mouth of the South," Martha Mitchell.
A fine one to talk: Martha Mitchell, the outspoken wife of Attorney General John Mitchell (right), was a glamorous focal point of the Watergate scandal.
The phrase “Well behaved women rarely make history” may as well have been coined to describe the influence on modern American politics of the late Martha Mitchell (1918–1976), an early source in the Watergate scandal. Known as “The Mouth of the South,” Mitchell was the vivacious, outgoing, and extremely gabby wife of Richard Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell. She had a spunky personal style and a penchant for talking to the press. Her exact motivation for leaking information about Watergate to local reporters is a mystery—was she trying to protect her husband? Did her loquacity get away from her? But her impact was clear: Nixon himself said, “If it hadn’t been for Martha Mitchell, there’d have been no Watergate.”
Mitchell’s revelations were quickly quieted by detractors, dismissed as the musings of a paranoid and imaginative (and some said, alcoholic) housewife. But her zesty defiance and taste for publicity are as much a part of the hotel’s history as Deep Throat and the White House tapes. As the landmark hotel opens its renovated doors, here’s to the next chapter—and the women who will help write it.