Katharine Graham’s story, much like Indira Ghandi’s, is one of stepping up and embracing what the world throws at you (and kicking ass at it). What so inspired us about her tale was that she, like most of us, was riddle with doubts about her capabilities. But she did it anyway. And wow, did she do a lot…
Katharine was born in 1917, her father was multimillionaire, Eugene Meyer and in 1933, Eugene bought The Washington Post at a bankruptcy auction. Katharine began working there in 1938 but after 8 years she stepped down to take care of her family (she had four children with her husband, Philip Graham). When Eugene died in 1959, control of The Post was passed on to Katharine’s husband, Philip. Philip had struggled with alcoholism and mental illness for many years and in 1963 he committed suicide. As a result of his death, Katharine became president of the The Post Co and publisher of The Washington Post. At the time, there were no women in high positions at publishing companies and Katharine had few female role models to look to. She expressed difficulty being taken seriously by many of her male colleagues and employees. Over the years, this inspired her to advocate for gender equality, specifically at The Post.
Katharine hired Benjamin Bradlee as the Editor of The Post and together they redefined investigative journalism in the United States. Katharine and Benjamin’s most famous achievements were the publication of the Pentagon Papers and the investigation into the Watergate scandal. Katharine went against the advice of her lawyers and threats from government directives and supported the investigation by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Under her direction, The Post published stories on Watergate when few other publication would.
Katharine won a Pultizer Prize for her memoir Personal History, was the first woman to head a Fortune 500 company and is credited with diversifying and expanding The Post Co. to include television, cable, newspaper, educational services and magazines. She passed away in 2001.