Winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Biography
An extraordinarily frank, honest, and generous book by one of America's most famous and admired women, Personal History is, as its title suggests, a book composed of both personal memoir and history.
It is the story of Graham's parents: the multimillionaire father who left private business and government service to buy and restore the down-and-out Washington Post, and the formidable, self-absorbed mother who was more interested in her political and charity work, and her passionate friendships with men like Thomas Mann and Adlai Stevenson, than in her children.
It is the story of how The Washington Post struggled to succeed -- a fascinating and instructive business history as told from the inside (the paper has been run by Graham herself, her father, her husband, and now her son).
It is the story of Phil Graham -- Kay's brilliant, charismatic husband (he clerked for two Supreme Court justices) -- whose plunge into manic-depression, betrayal, and eventual suicide is movingly and charitably recounted.
Best of all, it is the story of Kay Graham herself. She was brought up in a family of great wealth, yet she learned and understood nothing about money. She is half-Jewish, yet -- incredibly -- remained unaware of it for many years.She describes herself as having been naive and awkward, yet intelligent and energetic. She married a man she worshipped, and he fascinated and educated her, and then, in his illness, turned from her and abused her. This destruction of her confidence and happiness is a drama in itself, followed by the even more intense drama of her new life as the head of a great newspaper and a great company, a famous (and even feared) woman in her own right. Hers is a life that came into its own with a vengeance -- a success story on every level.
Graham's book is populated with a cast of fascinating characters, from fifty years of presidents (and their wives), to Steichen, Brancusi, Felix Frankfurter, Warren Buffett (her great advisor and protector), Robert McNamara, George Schultz (her regular tennis partner), and, of course, the great names from the Post: Woodward, Bernstein, and Graham's editorpartner, Ben Bradlee. She writes of them, and of the most dramatic moments of her stewardship of the Post (including the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, and the pressmen's strike), with acuity, humor, and good judgment. Her book is about learning by doing, about growing and growing up, about Washington, and about a woman liberated by both circumstance and her own great strengths.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: Personal History|
|Release Date: 02-09-2011|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
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My parents' paths first crossed in a museum on 23rd Street in New York. It was Lincoln's Birthday, 1908. Eugene Meyer, who was thirty-two years old, had been in business for himself for only a few years, but had already made several million dollars. Agnes Ernst, just twenty-one and a recent graduate of Barnard, was strikingly beautiful. She was earning her own living and helping to support her family as well by her free-lance work for a newspaper, the old New York Sun. She was also interested in the art world, which was what brought her to the exhibit of Japanese prints. Both her interests and her work were unusual for a woman in those days.
On his way down to Wall Street, my father, who was driving a Stanley Steamer, one of the earliest automobiles, noticed an acquaintance whom he didn't especially like. But Edgar Kohler looked frail and dejected and my father felt sorry for him, so he offered him a ride, mentioning that he was going to stop off at a Japanese-print exhibit. Kohler decided to accompany him.
Going into the gallery, they met two friends coming out, who assessed the exhibition this way: "There's a girl walking around who's better-looking than anything on the walls." Once inside, Kohler and my father immediately spotted her -- a tall young woman with fair hair and blue eyes, clearly strong, dynamic, and self-assured. My mother always remembered what she was wearing that day, because she felt that her "costume," as she called it, had played a part in her destiny. She must have been quite a sight in her gray tweed suit and small squirrel cap adorned with an eagle feather. My father, on seeing her, said to Kohler, "That's the girl...