Personal History Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Personal History

Personal History is a Pulitzer Prize winning autobiography of one of the world's most powerful and influential women, Katharine Graham, the former president and chairman of The Washington Post Co. and former publisher of The Washington Post. Because her life story is the modern history of the Washington Post she starts at the beginning with the life of her father Eugene Meyer, his rise to prominence and his purchase of the Post. He married Agnes Ernst, a sophisticated and intelligent woman (her favorite author was Thomas Mann), chasing her across Europe before bringing her to Mt. Kisco, New York. The Post was a foundering publication and required large infusions of money from Mr. Meyer to keep it running.
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Katharine Graham was born in 1917 and her father groomed her to know something of the newspaper business after she finished college. She was a believer in socialism during the Depression, despite her family fortune. Eventually Ms. Graham married Phillip Graham and he left to fight in WWII. It was he who ran the Post until his suicide in 1963. She offers a very forthright and honest account of her troubled marriage, Phil's infidelities, the difficulties in her relationship with her mother, and raising her children who eventually take over the running of the paper.

She took the small newspaper and eventually turned it into a conglomeration of media companies, in short a vast publishing empire. She is remembered for her stewardship over the Post during the Nixon administration. She defied the government and published the Pentagon Papers in 1971 and then gave encouragement to her reporters Woodward and Bernstein to break open the Watergate Scandal from 1972 to 1974 that brought down the Nixon Presidency. She also stared down the trade unions that for years had been wasteful and inefficient, keeping the paper running despite the absence of the striking pressmen in 1975. The Post became highly profitable and no longer beholden to the archaic practices of the unions.
The review of this Book prepared by David Fletcher

Katharine Graham's personal memoir journeys through her life as a child in a wealthy home to her powerful position as editor of the Washington Post. She writes of her love for her husband and his eventual mental illness and shows extraordinary strength and courage. Most of the writing details the fascinating coverage of Watergate and the Pentagon Papers, which eventually earned a Pulitzer for the newspaper.
The review of this Book prepared by Jessica Marler

From a privileged childhood to a difficult marriage to career success beyond her wildest dreams, Katharine Graham has lived a remarkable life. This is her story.
The review of this Book prepared by Lisa West

Chapter Analysis of Personal History

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Plot & Themes

job/profession:    -   journalist/editor Job/profession/poverty story    -   Yes Family, love    -   Yes Special relationship with    -   hubby Period of greatest activity?    -   1950+

Subject of Biography

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   journalist Ethnicity    -   White Nationality    -   American


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   3 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Northeast City?    -   Yes City:    -   Washington D.C. Century:    -   1960's-1970's

Writing Style

Book makes you feel?    -   challenged Pictures/Illustrations?    -   A ton 16-20 B&W How much dialogue in bio?    -   little dialog

Books with storylines, themes & endings like Personal History

Katharine Graham Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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