It could safely be said of Katherine Graham that few women had a greater infulence on 20th-centllry American history. When she died at the age of 84, peop1e from all walks of life were swift and generous in their eulogies.
Katherine Meyer was born in 1917 to a wealthy and fami1y. Her father was a multimillionaire who gave up business and government service to buy the Washington Post in 1933. Katherine shared his love of journalism, and worked on the paper’s editing desk for a few years before getting married.
Her husband, Phil Graham, was a bright young lawyer who took over at the Post in 1945. But Phil suffered from manic depression later, which gradually got worse, culminating in his suicide when Katherine was 46. Suddenly, she found herself in control of the Post.
Graham took over the day-to-day running of the paper Skeptics who had doubted her ability to make a success of it were dumbfounded as her enthusiasm and tenacity proved them wrong.
Graham was never afraid of making a courageous decision. Against the advice of the Post’s lawyers, she sided with her editors and published the Pentagon Papers. The papers were top secret documents about the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. She later remained steadfast in the face of government pressure not to pursue the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
Graham handed over the control of the Post to her son in 1991, when she was 74 years old. By that time, she was often being described as the most powerful woman in America. Whether or not that was true, few would disagree with the assessment of one of her many admirers, that without her, Washington “would have been a much less civilized place.”