June 16, 1917
New York City
|Died||July 17, 2001
|Education||University of Chicago
|Spouse(s)||Philip Graham (1940â€“1963)|
Donald E. Graham
William Welsh Graham
Stephen Meyer Graham
|Parent(s)||Agnes Ernst Meyer
The organization that I joined when I went to work, the trade association called the Bureau of Advertising, became the first of many over the years in which I was the only woman.
Although at the time I didn't realize what was happening, I was unable to make a decision that might displease those around me. For years, whatever directive I may have issued ended with the phrase, 'If it's all right with you.' If I thought I'd done anything to make someone unhappy, I'd agonize.
I didn't really want deadlines and editorial work. I wanted something mechanical and eight hours a day. So I went to work, thinking it was easy – ha, ha – on the complaint desk at the circulation department.
There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets, and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.
One of my principal childhood memories is hearing one of the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies waft throughout the house.
Alice Roosevelt Longworth was only a few years older than my mother but outlived her by a decade, dying in 1980. From the time they met, in 1917, they were lifelong friends of sorts, though each was a bit wary of the other.
If we had failed to pursue the facts as far as they led, we would have denied the public any knowledge of an unprecedented scheme of political surveillance and sabotage.
When in 1969 I became publisher of the 'Washington Post' as well as president of the company, my plate was fuller than ever. I had partly worked myself into the job but not, except for rare occasions, taken hold. I had acquired some sense of business but still relied on others more than most company presidents did.
Once, power was considered a masculine attribute. In fact, power has no sex.
I believed – and believe – that capitalism works best for a freedom-loving society, that it brings more prosperity to more people than any other social-economic system, but that somehow we have to take care of people.
Being a woman in control of a company – even a small private company, as ours was then – was so singular and surprising in those days that I necessarily stood out. In 1963, and for the first several years of my working life, my situation was certainly unique.
My mother seemed to undermine so much of what I did, subtly belittling my choices and my activities in light of her greater, more important ones.
At least through most of the 1960s, I basically lived in a man's world, hardly speaking to a woman all day except to the secretaries. But I was almost totally unaware of myself as an oddity and had no comprehension of the difficulties faced by working women in our organization and elsewhere.
In my first year or so at the 'Post,' I began to write with some frequency on the least important issues – so-called light editorials. The titles themselves are revealing of just how light: 'On Being a Horse,' 'Brains and Beauty,' 'Mixed Drinks,' 'Lou Gehrig,' and 'Spotted Fever.'
I love Martha's Vineyard, where I have had a house for thirty years. I have loved visiting countries around the world. But I always come home to Washington.
I remember the Washington in which I grew up as a genuine small town. Maybe this is true for everyone, that we all feel that the times in which we grew up were simpler, less complex.
One doesn't soon forget the natural beauty of Washington, although those of us who live here do sometimes take it for granted.
I adopted the assumption of many of my generation that women were intellectually inferior to men, that we were not capable of governing, leading, managing anything but our homes and our children.
When it comes to Washington, most people tend to think first of politics. But Washington is also a geographic and physical place. It is, for instance, one of the few cities of the world where you can talk endlessly about trees.
There seems to me nothing very bad about a nation's capital having good intentions – and when the intentions are magnificent, so much the better.
In large families, it seems it is hardest to be either the first or the last child. That was certainly true in ours.
Potomac School proved to be my first big adjustment – one that helped me with a basic lesson of growing up: learning to get along in whatever world one is deposited.
Those first few years of marriage, before the war interrupted all our lives, Phil and I had a very happy time. I grew up considerably, mostly thanks to him.
For more than eight decades, Washington has been my hometown. My whole orientation is toward this place.
I truly believed that other people in my position didn't make mistakes; I couldn't see that everybody makes them, even people with great experience.
The press these days should be rather careful about its role. We may have acquired some tendencies about over-involvement that we had better overcome.
There have been two periods in my lifetime when the excitement of government and of public issues drew to Washington many of the bright young people graduating from colleges and law schools. These were essentially the Roosevelt and the Kennedy years.
To love what you do and feel that it matters how could anything be more fun?
The image of me as someone who likes or can deal with a fight is wrong. Some people enjoy competition and dustups, and I wish I did, but I don't. But once you have started down a path, then I think you have to move forward. You can't give up.
Mountain climbing was one of Mother's favorite occupations, but she never succeeded in inculcating this passion in any of us.
To me, involvement with news is absolutely inebriating. It's what makes my life exciting.
It took me a while to learn that certain people may have important skills that are not always blazingly apparent. Gradually I came to realize – slow as I may have been – that what mattered was performance, that sometimes people might have to be helped to develop, and that it takes all kinds to make an organization run properly.
Mother set impossibly high standards for us, creating tremendous pressures and undermining our ability to accomplish whatever modest aims we may have set for ourselves.
My position in the family turned out to be a lucky one; I bore neither the brunt of my mother's newness to parenthood nor the force of her middle-aged traumas, as my younger sister, Ruth, did.
Family ownership provides the independence that is sometimes required to withstand governmental pressure and preserve freedom of the press.
I always liked Barbara Howar and admired her spunk. I know that she considered me – and Alice Roosevelt Longworth – an exception to her negative feelings about Washington widows and single women, whom she basically found dispensable.
The thing women must do to rise to power is to redefine their femininity. Once, power was considered a masculine attribute. In fact, power has no sex.
Dean Acheson was one of the very best and brightest of the men who ever came to Washington.