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Watergate: All The President's Men, But Women Too


A story now about women overlooked by history. This month marks the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, dramatized in the 1976 movie "All the President's Men."


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (as Character) Woodward.

ROBERT REDFORD: (as Bob Woodward) Yeah?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (as Character) There's been a break-in at the Democratic headquarters. There's been an arrest.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (as Character) Local Democratic headquarters, yeah.

SULLIVAN: The movie was based on the work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, The Washington Post reporters who uncovered the scandal. That ultimately led to President Richard Nixon's resignation. But as Kate Dailey, a reporter for the BBC, wrote in a recent article, it wasn't all the president's men.

KATE DAILEY: When you open your copy of "All the President's Men," they list the cast of characters. And 51 of 52 of them are men. And it makes sense. There are these high-ranking government officials, there are big-time editors at The Washington Post. But when you read the book, you see that a lot of the sources, a lot of the players were women, and they were ones who helped make the story possible.

SULLIVAN: Kate Dailey spoke to many of those women. Perhaps the most important was Judy Hoback.

JUDY MILLER: I worked for the Watergate in the early '70s as a bookkeeper for the finance committee to re-elect the president.

SULLIVAN: So you go down in history as the bookkeeper.



SULLIVAN: In the book and in the movie, Judy Hoback - now Judy Miller - was the subject of two critical scenes. One is when Woodward and Bernstein show up together to confirm some information they've pieced together. But the first is the moment both reporters called a turning point.

Do you remember the night when Carl Bernstein knocked on your door?

MILLER: Yes, I do.


DUSTIN HOFFMAN: (as Carl Bernstein) Hi. I'm Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post.

MILLER: I was pretty nervous and scared. And he said his name and I sort of was getting ready to shut the door and he sort of put his foot in the door and said, no, please don't.


HOFFMAN: (as Carl Bernstein) I can understand your being afraid. There's a lot of people at the committee just like you who wanted to tell the truth, but some people wouldn't listen.

MILLER: Knew I wanted to say something but was afraid to say anything, especially to reporters. But I felt frustrated that I didn't think the truth was coming out.

SULLIVAN: Yeah. In the movie, they show him - your sister, really - just being quite the host, inviting over coffee and cigarettes.


SLOANE SHELTON: (as the Bookkeeper's Sister) Can I get you some coffee or something?

HOFFMAN: (as Carl Bernstein) Yeah. Thanks very much.

SULLIVAN: You say, no, no, no, like...


HOFFMAN: (as Carl Bernstein) Can I just sit down for a second?

JANE ALEXANDER: (as the Bookkeeper) Sure, you can sit down, but I'm not going to tell you anything.

SULLIVAN: Is that what was going on?

MILLER: Pretty much. Especially at the beginning, she was anxious for me to stay there and talk to him. And it is a true story as it goes in the movie with it.


HOFFMAN: (as Carl Bernstein) I don't want you to feel in a position where you have to disclose names.

SULLIVAN: So what was the trick with the initials?


HOFFMAN: (as Carl Bernstein) I can just ask initials.

SULLIVAN: In the movie, you give him only initial.


HOFFMAN: (as Carl Bernstein) Was it an M?

SULLIVAN: You know, later on, they claim that they know who you're talking about to see how you reacted.


REDFORD: (as Bob Woodward) Who is P?

HOFFMAN: (as Carl Bernstein) P we know as Porter. You said 25 grand. Is that how much Porter got?

SULLIVAN: Is that what happened?

MILLER: Pretty much, because I was afraid to say the names. Then we got into this little game back and forth of initials.


ALEXANDER: (as the Bookkeeper) Who told you about Porter?

MILLER: They knew who I was talking about when I would give the initials. But that's basically how it did happen.

SULLIVAN: Those initials would become a crucial step as Woodward and Bernstein followed the money and published reporting that ultimately shattered Nixon's presidency.


PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: Because of the Watergate matter, I might not have the support of the Congress that I would consider necessary to back the very difficult decisions and carry out the duties of this office in the way the interests of the nation will require.

SULLIVAN: Judy Hoback stayed out of the limelight for years after Nixon resigned. She was never named in Woodward and Bernstein's reporting.

MILLER: I didn't realize this was going to be probably the biggest thing in their life at the time, and I'm sure they didn't know that either. But I had an email or so a few years ago from Bob Woodward. He sent me a copy of his book on who is Deep Throat. And he just wrote a nice note to me at the time, saying that I really had helped them so very much, and he thanked me.

DAILEY: And she, like a lot of the women that I talked to, said, you know, at the time, I didn't think I was taking place in a big historical event.

SULLIVAN: Again, that's BBC's Kate Dailey whose story detailed the role of women in the Watergate investigation, like Judy Hoback. And there was Washington Post reporter Marilyn Berger who got a key tip; Martha Mitchell, the campaign worker whose early warnings were ignored. And there was Debbie Sloan, the wife of treasurer Hugh Sloan.

DAILEY: The idea that she was this moral backbone and that he wouldn't have done the right thing without her, she thinks this is a disservice to Hugh and a misportrayal of how their marriage really worked.

SULLIVAN: And she's the one who was standing at the door when they arrived, and she said this is an honest house...

DAILEY: That's right.

SULLIVAN: ...to Woodward and Bernstein. Did she really say that?

DAILEY: She said that. And when I talked to her last month, she said, I can't believe I said that. She goes that's something that someone who's so young and so naive says when they're dealing with the press, because she was young and she was naive. But she told me they would knock at her door from dawn till dusk. And if she would turn the light on in the kitchen to make dinner, they'd see the door and they'd knock on it.

SULLIVAN: Do you think that women have gotten short shrift in the history of Watergate?

DAILEY: I think that in any story, even when it looks like it's only involving men, there are always going to be women. There are always wives, there are always mothers, there are always what one Nixon historian called minor people, you know, secretaries, administrators, bookkeepers, working behind the scenes.

I don't think the story of Watergate is primarily a story of women. It's called "All the President's Men" for a reason. But I think that it's important to recognize that in 1972, there were women in the political climate, there were women in the workforce, and that women played a role in this big part of history.

SULLIVAN: You can check out all the women of Watergate and Kate Dailey's story on our website, npr.org.


SULLIVAN: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.