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The Ups and Downs of Katherine Graham
It could safely be said of Katherine Graham that few women had a greater influence on 20th-century American history. When she died last year at the age of 84, people from all walks of life were swift and generous in their eulogies.
Long-time owner of the Washington Post, Graham was a female pioneer in the “man's world” of serious journalism. Her decision to publish the controversial Pentagon Papers in 1971 ensured that her name would always be linked to the ideals of press freedom.
Katherine Meyer was born in 1917 to a wealthy and privileged family. Her father was a multimillionaire who gave up business and government service to buy the ailing 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. The couple became a popular part of the Washington social scene. Behind the facade, however, lay a different story. Phil was given to wild mood swings and abusive behavior that caused Katherine a great deal of mental anguish. He suffered from manic depression, which gradually got worse, culminating in his suicide when Katherine was 46. Suddenly, she found herself in control of the Post.
Despite her personal tragedy, Graham was determined to keep the Washington Post in the family, and took over the day-to-day running of the paper herself. 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.”
Avid readers who look to biography for inspiration could do worse than pick up a copy of Katherine Graham's Pulitzer Prize-winning “Personal History.” It is a rich chronicle of momentous events and the people that played their part in them. It is also the fascinating story of a person of character and values that many would like to emulate.
1. eulogy n. 颂词，悼词
2. pioneer n. 先锋，先驱
3. ailing a. 痛苦的，境况不佳
4. anguish n. 剧烈痛苦
5. dumbfounded a. 哑然的
6. steadfast a. 坚定的
7. assessment n. 评价
8. momentous a. 重大的