Matthews was born in San Francisco, California. She is a 1975 graduate of Stanford University. In 2004 she was a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She has honorary degrees from the University of South Carolina and Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia.
Matthews began working at ABC's Washington DC affiliate WJLA in 1976 as a production assistant. She worked her way up to producer and then she was a writer/reporter from 1982 to 1991. In 1991 she began anchoring. She was an anchor for 15 years through 2006 when she retired. She hosted and executive produced the nationally syndicated Working Woman television show from 2001 to 2006. She hosted political show Capital Sunday on Sundays. She was named a 2002 Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian magazine, and a "Woman Who Means Business" by the Washington Business Journal. She has also been awarded nine local Emmys and an Edward R. Murrow Award, among other top honors during her journalism career.
In July 2006 Matthews was named Executive Vice President – Global Communications and Public Affairs at Marriott, responsible the company’s external and internal communications, including global brand and corporate public relations, corporate social responsibility, and government affairs. She also co-chaired Marriott’s Executive Green Council.
In March 2015 she resigned from Marriott.
Matthews served on the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board to the Secretary of Commerce, as well as the boards of the U.S. Travel Association, the International Tourism Partnership, and the Economic Club of Washington. She is active in the World Economic Forum Policy Councils.
On June 3, 2015, Matthews officially announced that she was a Democratic Party candidate for Maryland's 8th congressional district, where incumbent Chris Van Hollen was relinquishing his House seat in order to run for the United States Senate. On March 16, 2016, the editorial board of The Washington Post endorsed Matthews, writing, "Our preference for Ms. Matthews boils down to our belief that in Congress, she would be more pragmatic and less doctrinaire than the left-leaning State Senator Jamie Raskin, whose passionate liberalism is unsurpassed in Annapolis. Both candidates support gun control, clean energy, campaign finance reform and greater investment in education and health research. Ms. Matthews has greater potential, following the Van Hollen model, to move the ball forward in those areas." On April 26, 2016, Matthews was defeated by Raskin in the Democratic primary.
On March 1, 2017, Bruce Poole resigned as Chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, and on March 2, Matthews was chosen to be the interim Chair. On May 6, she was elected to a four-year term as state party Chair. Matthews promised to renew a state party infrastructure that has deteriorated in recent years, especially outside traditional Democratic strongholds in Baltimore City and Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. She promised to pursue an “all-Maryland strategy” to recruit and support candidates.
Since 1980 she has been married to Chris Matthews, host of Hardball and The Chris Matthews Show. They live in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and have three children: Michael (1983), Thomas (1986), Caroline (1989). Matthews is active in her community and industry, and has served on the boards of the U.S. Travel Association, Catholic Charities, the Black Student Fund, Suited for Change, Ford’s Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Nantucket Film Festival and Nantucket Dreamland Theater.