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Women in history: Katharine Graham

by Sofia Navarro
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Katharine Graham was an American publisher and the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She was born on June 16, 1917, in New York City, to a wealthy and politically influential family.

Graham’s father owned The Washington Post, and after graduating from college, she began working for the paper as a reporter. In 1948, she married Philip Graham, who later became the publisher of The Washington Post after her father’s death.

After her husband’s sudden death in 1963, Graham assumed control of The Washington Post Company. She faced numerous challenges, including a male-dominated industry and the threat of financial ruin, but she persevered and transformed the company into a highly profitable and respected media conglomerate.

Under Graham’s leadership, The Washington Post became known for its investigative journalism, including its coverage of the Watergate scandal, which ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Graham also played a key role in the landmark Supreme Court case New York Times Co. v. United States, in which the court ruled that the government could not prevent the publication of the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret study of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

In addition to her work as a publisher, Graham was a philanthropist and a champion of women’s rights. She was awarded numerous honors and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.

Graham passed away on July 17, 2001, at the age of 84. She is remembered as a pioneering figure in American journalism and a trailblazer for women in business. Her memoir, “Personal History,” won a Pulitzer Prize in 1998.

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