Is Gaslit’s Winnie Based on a Real Journalist?

Based on a true story, Starz’s political thriller series ‘Gaslit’ revolves around Martha Mitchell, the outspoken wife of John N. Mitchell at the time of the Watergate scandal. The series progresses through Martha’s attempts to express her concerns regarding President Nixon and the scandal. In the first episode of the limited series, a journalist named Winnie McLendon meets Martha for an interview.

After the interview, Martha contacts Winnie to publish a story about the feud between Nixon and Henry Kissinger. Since Winnie becomes an intriguing presence in Martha’s life in the show, the viewers must be wondering whether she is based on a real journalist. Let us share the answer!

Is Winnie Based on a Real Journalist?

Yes, Winnie is based on a real journalist. The character is based on Winzola “Winnie” McLendon, a journalist and the biographer of Martha Mitchell. Winnie was born in Cardwell, Missouri, and grew up in Oklahoma and California. She began her career in The Honolulu Advertiser in the 1940s and later worked in Honolulu Star-Bulletin, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Washington Post. While working at The Washington Post, Winnie focused on covering the First Ladies of her time, including Mamie Eisenhower, Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, Betty Ford, and Rosalynn Carter.

Winnie became a friend of Martha Mitchell while the former was covering President Nixon’s tenure at the White House. The journalist was a significant presence in Martha’s life when her marriage with John N. Mitchell became troubled. She was one of the few friends Martha had during the latter’s last years until she died in 1976. After Martha separated from her husband Mitchell, Winnie and other friends started to look after her. As per reports, they helped her when she was suffering from multiple myeloma. Winnie and the others even talked Martha out of suicide.

In 1979, Winnie published Martha’s biography ‘Martha: The Life of Martha Mitchell.’ Winnie was married to John Benjamin McLendon, who died in 1993. During her career, she contributed to several publications, including Ladies Home Journal, Town & Country, and Good Housekeeping. Winnie had worked as a literary agent as well. She was also a member of the National Press Club and its predecessor, the Women’s National Press Club/Washington Press Club, for a long period of 61 years. On March 1, 2012, Winnie died at her home in Washington, D.C.

Image Credit: Legacy

Allison Tolman essays the character of Winnie in ‘Gaslit.’ “I read as much as I could about Winnie when I took the role, but there’s not a lot out there about her. She exists really as a tangent to everything that we know about Martha,” Tolman told Washington Post Live. “So, I think the more I learned about Martha, the more I was able to kind of get into who Winnie was and where she was at in this story,” the actress added about the preparations she had to portray Winnie.

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