Personal History
by Katherine Graham


Vintage, NY, 1998. ISBN 0375701044.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 05/03/2002

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Active Life

It is long (642 pages), and the print is small. Why would anyone want to read it? Because every page has something of interest in it. And because this is not only the personal history of Katharine Graham, but a view of the United States from a woman reluctantly thrust into power by the death of her Washington Post husband. The time covered is from the early 1900s, when her parents met, through the early 1990s. Think of how life changed during that time.

Mrs. Graham was raised by nannies in New York while her parents were busy helping out in Washington. She showed her independence by attending the radical University of Chicago and working before she married. When Katherine's father stepped down from management of the Washington Post, her husband, Phil, took his place. When Phil became ill and died, it was she who became president of the Washington Post Company.

Constantly during this sweep through politics, labor relations, corporate management, the rise of feminism, the importance of communications, and much more, Graham weaves her personal growing consciousness of where she and other women stand in relationship to it all. She writes of the help she received and downplays her own acumen in becoming the only woman in the Fortune 500. Never does she flaunt who she was, who she became, and the power she held.

Every page brings not only her personal insights about the (mostly) maturing of America, but also explains how she gains confidence while remaining concerned with and involved in her own family as well. An excellent read, but don't expect to finish it in one reading.

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