NO DOUBT about it, Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch, Alan Simpson, and Arlen Specter did a harsh number on Anita Hill, flailing away at her and with impunity. But they wouldn't have dared tried that stuff on Baltimore's Marie Baurenschmidt. She'd have destroyed them, ground them into mush one by one and had them for breakfast. She did that to politicians all through the middle of the century.
Marie Oehl von Hattersheim Baurenschmidt came out of South Baltimore poverty to marry a beer baron. And cutting politicians down to size became not just her style, but her passion. "You have to handle politicians with kid gloves," she used to say, "but you have to carry a rock in your mitt."
She'd storm into City Hall to take on Mayors William Broening, Howard Jackson, Theodore R. McKeldin and Tommy D'Alesandro Jr. and longtime Comptroller R. Walter Graham. Her loud, sharp accusations reverberated through the corridors:
"Now you listen to me, Howard Jackson," or, "Don't try to get away with that with me, McKeldin!" "Who do you think you're talking to, Mr. D'Alesandro? I know better." An observer of those days wrote, "Politicians turned pale and shuddered and ran for cover when the word got out that 'Mrs. B." was on the warpath after them."
She was mostly after political boss Jack Pollack. He condescendingly called her "Sweet Marie" but later said of her, with uncharacteristic sheepishness, "That lady wants nothing less than to be dictator of Baltimore."
She had no problem getting space in the newspaper or on the radio -- she had her own radio show -- to put politicians in their place. She let them know unapologetically with plenty of damns and hells, and she kept a file on every one of them.
"If he could see what I've got on him, he'd be shocked!" she once said of one of her targets. She asked him publicly, "How would you like me to flash this information to the newspapers?" She had a general disdain for all politicians, particularly city councilmen. "Their sole purpose in going to the chamber is to chew tobacco and smoke cigars."
And none was too big for her. "Listen, big boy," she roared at one of the state's highest elected officials, "bigger boys than you have tried to stop me, and they never succeeded. Back off!"
She died in 1962. Afterward, D'Alesandro said of her, "Thank God. And may she rest in peace!"
Hatch, Specter and Simpson did their jobs well, but then Marie Baurenschmidt was not in the witness chair.
They were lucky.