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392031 01: FILE PHOTO: Katharine Graham, attends a book signing luncheon in 1997 in Los Angeles, CA. Graham died July 17, 2001 in Boise, ID of injuries suffered in a fall that occured over the weekend. She was 84. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)

Happy Women’s History Month! This is the 8th blog of a series of blogs called “Women’s History Month Heroes You Should Know”. This series will be a collection of my research into little-known American women who have made history in one way or another (or multiple ways!).

The focus of today’s blog is Katharine Graham, one of the first female newspaper publishers in the U.S. and the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

This is her story.

Husband Becomes Publisher

According to The Washington Post, Katharine Graham was born in 1917 into a very wealthy and powerful New York City family. When Katharine was 16, her father bought The Washington Post from a bankruptcy auction in 1933. Seven years later, after Graham had graduated from college, she married a Supreme Court clerk, Philip Graham. After a few years of marriage, Graham’s father appointed Philip as The Post’s publisher. He even gave Philip more shares of stock in the company than his own daughter.

First Woman in this Male-Dominated Space

Unfortunately, Graham’s husband, having been diagnosed with depression, took his own life in 1963. As a result, Graham took over as the publisher of The Washington Post. She became one of the first woman publishers of an American newspaper. This also made her the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. After spending her life believing herself to be less capable than a man, Graham struggled to maneuver in a male-dominated space.

Scandals of the 70s

One of the biggest decisions of her career came in 1971 when she decided to leak the Pentagon Papers which would reveal the truth behind the American government’s role in the Vietnam War. Despite legal threats and the involvement of the Supreme Court, just a few months later, Graham decided to publish reporting on the Watergate scandal. This ultimately contributed to President Nixon’s resignation just two years later in 1974.

Memoir and Legacy

In 1997, Graham published her memoir entitled, “Personal History”. In it, she wrote all about her beginnings with The Washington Post and how she struggled to find a voice in a nearly all-male-dominated profession. She called herself a “doormat wife” and spoke on how she always felt like she put her husband’s needs, desires, and well-being before her own. A year after publication, her memoir won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize. Katharine Graham passed in 2001. Read more about her here.

Read another post from the blog series “Women’s History Month Heroes You Should Know” here.