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Women’s History Month- Katharine Graham

Katharine Meyer Graham’s father, Eugene Meyer, bought the Washington Post at a bankruptcy auction in 1933.   Katharine worked summers at the Washington Post during her college years.  In 1940, Katharine married Philip Graham, a graduate of Harvard Law School.  Katharine’s father sold the Washington Post to Phillip and Katharine for one dollar in 1948, not long after Philip’s discharge from the U.S. Army.

While suffering through a major mental illness episode, Philip Graham took his own life in 1963.  At this time, Katharine took her seat at the helm of the newspaper as president.  Under Katharine’s leadership, the Post paved many new paths.  During the Vietnam War, the Post tangled with the United States Government over the right to publish sections of classified documents involving the Vietnam conflict.  The U. S. Supreme Court ruled in the newspaper’s right to publish the “Pentagon Papers”, a major victory for the freedom of the press.

It was also the Post that initiated the probe into the break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters in 1972.  The articles in the Post led to great controversy in illegal activities, which famously became known as the Watergate Scandal.  Because of brave news reports such as these, Katharine Graham became known as the most powerful woman in publishing, an incredible feat in an otherwise “man’s” world.

Katharine later earned a Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1997, when she published her memoirs, Personal History. In 2002, President George W. Bush posthumously presented Katharine Graham with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“To love what you do and feel that it matters — how could anything be more fun?”                                       – Katharine Graham

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Judy W Bell

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