This week, we offer a story of a one of the most powerful women alive about the time after she lost her beloved husband, Philip Graham, to mental illness.
Graham is chairman of the executive committee of the Washington Post Co., which owns the newspaper, Newsweek and a host of other media properties. In her moving and surprising book, she discusses her transformation from heir and full-time mother to president and later publisher of the Washington Post. She took over her family’s business immediately after the 1963 violent suicide of her husband, Philip Graham, that left the company rudderless. In 1979, Graham ceded the title of publisher to her son while she oversaw the huge expansion of the now publicly held company.
In the immediate years following Phil’s death, it was terribly difficult for me to separate my work life from my private life; they were clearly so intermingled. For years, I had been on a kind of automatic pilot, trying to give attention to so many aspects of life at once -with two children still at home in the first years, friends, business acquaintances, always too much work, too many meetings, too many dinner parties. Fortunately, somewhere along the line, perhaps with help of lessons learned from the women’s movement, I began to have a happier time in my private life
Family and friends have always been vital to me, but at some point I started to enjoy other people as well, to connect more, even to appreciate male friends more. There were always men in my life-romances and close friends-and I enjoyed them all. As long as Phil was alive, I so adored him that I never thought about another relationship. In truth, that “one-man woman” thinking stayed with me for years, and vestiges are there still. I have often been asked why I never remarried. In my early years at work, I resented the question, which I felt would not be asked of a male publisher. I usually answered that I really didn’t know why. I still don’t know all the reasons, but what I came to understand was that my job made it difficult, if not impossible.
Men who appeal to me are strong, bright, tough, and involved, but that kind of man would probably not accept my own active and absorbing life. Those men need more attention and emotional energy than I had left over at the end of any working day, and I wasn’t looking for a prince consort. In fact, I wasn’t looking at all. Because I was so engrossed in what I was doing, I rarely gave a thought to possible remarriage. When I did think of it, it occurred to me that, although the idea had some appeal, it would almost surely never happen. When you’ve lived alone for a number of years, I’m afraid that you begin to realize how hard it would be to accommodate to living with someone else, adjust to or even indulging his desires and his life. It was clear to me that I was married to my job, and that I loved it.
Excerpts from Katharine Graham’s Personal History, Alfred A. Knopf, 1997