The captivating, inside story of the woman who helmed the Washington Post during one of the most turbulent periods in the history of American media. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography In this bestselling and widely acclaimed memoir, Katharine Graham, the woman who piloted the Washington Post through the scandals of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, tells her story--one that is extraordinary both for the events it encompasses and for the courage, candor, and dignity of its telling. Here is the awkward child who grew up amid material wealth and emotional isolation; the young bride who watched her brilliant, charismatic husband--a confidant to John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson--plunge into the mental illness that would culminate in his suicide. And here is the widow who shook off her grief and insecurity to take on a president and a pressman's union as she entered the profane boys' club of the newspaper business. As timely now as ever, Personal History is an exemplary record of our history and of the woman who played such a shaping role within them, discovering her own strength and sense of self as she confronted--and mastered--the personal and professional crises of her fascinating life.
So you might think that the most interesting bits would be about the inheriting the Washington Post upon her husband’s suicide, or the Pentagon Papers, or Watergate. But no, the best part was about her knock-down, drag-out labor fight with the craft trade unions that were strangling her paper.
“Knock-down, drag-out fight” is not hyperbole. They were negotiating with the press operators up to the day the contract was set to expire at midnight. Negotiators gave each other assurances that so long as the parties continued to negotiate in good faith, they’d continue working and paying status quo. Management was nervous, so they stayed in their offices until after midnight and just keep an eye on things for a while. Everything with the print run for the next morning’s paper was proceeding normally, so at about 2:00 a.m. management went home. At about 4:00 a.m., the pressmen destroyed three presses, set fires, flooded the building, beat the shop foreman nearly to death, and went on strike.
Fourteen of the saboteurs were criminally convicted. The union’s precondition for negotiation was that all fourteen be re-hired with the rest. Graham refused and broke them. She reached deals with all of the other craft unions, but to this day the paper’s presses are run by non-union pressmen. The pressmen’s union was uniformly white, and most of the replacement workers hired were black.
Personal History is the autobiography of Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham. It was published in 1997 and won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography, receiving widespread critical acclaim for its candor in dealing with her husband's mental illness and the challenges she faced in a male-dominated working environment.