Susan Coll

Essay
Washingtonian Magazine
Memoir and Biography – ‘Personal History’ by Katharine Graham

Don’t think you can skip reading Personal History because you’ve seen the movie The Post or read All the President’s Men. Graham is perhaps best known for presiding over her newsroom during Watergate as well as her courageous decision to publish the Pentagon Papers, but the events that put her at the helm of the Washington Post are just as dramatic. In addition to delivering on its promised historical sweep, this Pulitzer-winning memoir will leave you with new admiration for a vulnerable woman who had a remarkable gift for grace under pressure.

More than 20 years after first reading it, I vividly recall her complicated family life and her loneliness amid great privilege. The patrician publisher also provides a granular portrait of a city and a country in the midst of sweeping change. Graham came of age in an era when, despite her accomplishments, it was accepted that leadership of her family’s newspaper would be handed to her husband. But when the brilliant and deeply troubled Philip Graham committed suicide in 1963, she stepped into the male-dominated newsroom and steered the Post through tumultuous political times.

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