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Personal History
     

Personal History

4.1 23
by Katharine Graham
 

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Winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Biography

An extraordinarily frank, honest, and generous book by one of America's most famous and admired women, Personal History is, as its title suggests, a book composed of both personal memoir and history.

It is the story of Graham's parents: the multimillionaire father who left private

Overview

Winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Biography

An extraordinarily frank, honest, and generous book by one of America's most famous and admired women, Personal History is, as its title suggests, a book composed of both personal memoir and history.

It is the story of Graham's parents: the multimillionaire father who left private business and government service to buy and restore the down-and-out Washington Post, and the formidable, self-absorbed mother who was more interested in her political and charity work, and her passionate friendships with men like Thomas Mann and Adlai Stevenson, than in her children.

It is the story of how The Washington Post struggled to succeed -- a fascinating and instructive business history as told from the inside (the paper has been run by Graham herself, her father, her husband, and now her son).

It is the story of Phil Graham -- Kay's brilliant, charismatic husband (he clerked for two Supreme Court justices) -- whose plunge into manic-depression, betrayal, and eventual suicide is movingly and charitably recounted.

Best of all, it is the story of Kay Graham herself. She was brought up in a family of great wealth, yet she learned and understood nothing about money. She is half-Jewish, yet -- incredibly -- remained unaware of it for many years.She describes herself as having been naive and awkward, yet intelligent and energetic. She married a man she worshipped, and he fascinated and educated her, and then, in his illness, turned from her and abused her. This destruction of her confidence and happiness is a drama in itself, followed by the even more intense drama of her new life as thehead of a great newspaper and a great company, a famous (and even feared) woman in her own right. Hers is a life that came into its own with a vengeance -- a success story on every level.

Graham's book is populated with a cast of fascinating characters, from fifty years of presidents (and their wives), to Steichen, Brancusi, Felix Frankfurter, Warren Buffett (her great advisor and protector), Robert McNamara, George Schultz (her regular tennis partner), and, of course, the great names from the Post: Woodward, Bernstein, and Graham's editorpartner, Ben Bradlee. She writes of them, and of the most dramatic moments of her stewardship of the Post (including the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, and the pressmen's strike), with acuity, humor, and good judgment. Her book is about learning by doing, about growing and growing up, about Washington, and about a woman liberated by both circumstance and her own great strengths.

Editorial Reviews

Barnesandnoble.com
Personal History was the winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for biography. Katharine Graham died on July 17th, 2001.
Library Journal
Not just the story of Graham's stewardship of The Washington Post, this 'personal history' ranges from her favorite tennis partner (George Schultz) to her husband's fall into madness and suicide.
Brills Content
Graham will forever be remembered as the publisher who never said no to Woodward and Bernstein during the Watergate scandal. Her Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir is just as riveting; highly readable prose turns her life into a story as complex and surprising as the one that started at the Watergate.
Nora Ephron
Nothing that has been printed about Graham is as compelling as the story she herself tells.
-- The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
Gracious, often touchingly ingenuous, at once panoramic and particular, Graham's autobiography absorbingly reconstructs her life of worldly privilege and affective deprivation as the daughter of one formidable man and the wife and widow of another, then chronicles her own rise to the challenges of captaining The Washington Post. Katharine Meyer—her blue blood diluted only slightly by her father's Jewish roots, her development stunted severely by a self-aggrandizing mother—survived the conventions and emotional isolation of a richly endowed girlhood to marry the irreverent Phil Graham, whom she celebrates for liberating her from her un-spontaneous self and the weight of her family mythology. It was he who 'put the fix in our lives' . . . and, shatteringly, put a gun to his head after escalating manic-depression climaxed in his running off with the latest of his unsuspected paramours, leaving Katharine to abject devastation. That she was utterly bereft of social confidence by middle age seems to have been both cause and effect of Phil's defection; nonetheless, she determined to go to work to preserve for her children the Post, which Phil had taken over from her father. (With characteristic modesty and felicity, she extols the 'originality' of the friend who planted the idea that she could run it.) But also, she quite fell in love with the paper and the burgeoning corporate enterprise. It was an excruciating coming-of-age, because of her constant self-doubt and frankly poor management and because of the magnitude of the events played out on her watch—each revisited in reflective, defensive, parochial detail: the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, the pressmen'sstrike, the company's going public, major acquisition and personnel decisions. Graham's book, like her life, is harnessed to history, political and journalistic (even her best friends were famous). Her myriad stories—discreet to a fault—humanize a whole pantheon of personalities. Her personal drama, however, upstages the rest.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780394585857
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/28/1997
Pages:
656
Product dimensions:
6.64(w) x 9.53(h) x 2.14(d)

Read an Excerpt

When my parents returned from their honeymoon and settled back into New York, my mother was pregnant. My father went back to Wall Street, and she had to begin making the necessary adjustments to being a married woman. Overnight she found herself living a wealthy life and running households. She once told me of thinking, as she rode in a chauffeurdriven car, "Can this really be me?" As she herself acknowledged, she had a difficult time, especially in the first years, long before I was born, the fourth child of five. She had rarely thought about what marriage entailed m the way of relationships to spouse and children. I'm not sure she was ever really able to.

She seemed to regard her marriage as a contract she would always keep, and in her way she did. Her duty, as she saw it, lay in having and rearing children, running the houses, and being there when needed to fulfill her obligations as a hostess. After that, like so many of today's women but way ahead of her time, she was determined to maintain her own identity and intellectual life. In her own world, she went her own way. Later, in a memoir, she explained how she felt at the time:

I ... rebelled inwardly and outwardly against the suddenly imposed responsibilities of marriage. During the first few
years . . . I behaved as if the whole world were in a conspiracy to flatten out my personality and cast me into a universal
mold called "woman." So many of my married college friends had renounced their intellectual interests and lost
themselves in a routine of diapers, dmners, and smug contentment with life, that I was determined this should not
happen to me. I wanted a big family but I also wanted tocontinue my life as an individual.

I believe she was often desperately unhappy in her marriage, especially at first. She went to a psychiatrist, on whom she leaned heavily. She tried to escape any problems with her marriage and motherhood by studying Chinese art and language and by maintaining her connections to "291" and developing an interest in collecting modern art. She had already met a man who was to be one of the great influences in her life, the industrialist and pioneer collector Charles Lang Freer. They met at an exhibit of Chinese art, and he, having heard of her interest, invited her to Detroit to see his collection. She responded, "Next week I am going to have a baby, but I'll come as soon after that as I can." My father went along as chaperone and he, too, became a friend of Freer's.

From January 1913 until his death, my mother studied under and collected with Freer. Often they would divide up the shipments from his personal representatives in China. She had already studied the Chinese language at Columbia from 1911 to 1913, and for the next five years, with the aid of a Chinese scholar whom she often had in residence at Mount Kisco, she amassed research materials for an analysis of the contributions of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism to the development of the T'ang and Sung dynasties. This resulted in the publication, in 1923, of her book Chinese Painting as Reflected in the Thought and Art of Li Lung-Mien. Unfortunately, Freer, to whom it was dedicated, had died in 1919. She visited him constantly throughout his long, agonizing illness. At his death, Freer designated five trustees for his gallery in Washington, of whom my parents were two.

As another outlet for her mind, she enrolled in postgraduate study in biology, economics, and history at Columbia University, where she met and became involved with the historians Charles and Mary Beard. When the Beards, John Dewey, and others founded the free and liberal New School for Social Research, she helped modestly to fund it and also helped in psychology classes when it opened in 1919.

At the same time, she grew even more involved with "291" and with Steichen in promoting modern art, especially that of John Marin, who sent over his watercolors from Paris. She was instrumental in founding the periodical named for the gallery, "291," and became an editor of this first avant-garde journal in America. My mother was already caught up in these activities by the time the first baby, my oldest sister, Florence, was born. She later told stories of deciding to nurse the baby but forgetting to come home from her "extramural activities" and racing home to find a screaming baby being pacified by poor Powelly.

During these first years of my mother's struggles with marriage, my father had some business setbacks. He had entered the budding automobile business in a big way, investing heavily in a company called the United States Motor Company, which produced the Maxwell. This company had run into trouble, and my father had helped reorganize it into the Maxwell Motor Company, which was still in trouble. His heavy investments in copper had not begun to pay off, and, for the first time, he felt financially squeezed. My parents had moved into a large, elegant house at 70th Street and Park Avenue. In an effort to retrench, they sold the house and moved into an entire floor at the St. Regis Hotel -- not exactly poverty row, but enough to set off rumors that Wall Street's boy wonder had gotten into trouble.

He eventually emerged from the tumultuous experience with Maxwell with a substantial profit and went on believing in the automobile business. A little later he made a brilliantly successful investment in the Fisher Body Company, run by seven able brothers. When Fisher sold to General Motors, however, he chose cash rather than stock, passing up the chance to become one of G.M.'s largest stockholders.

Around the same time, my father made another -- less important -- mistake. With his friend Bernard Baruch he invested in a gold mine, Alaska Juneau. The value of the mine went up and down, but at some point water, not gold, was found in it. For some reason, my father had invested in the mine for all of us children and told us about it. The price of Alaska Juneau was the subject of dinner-table merriment for many years, along with discussion of whether each child had profited or not. Eventually, it dropped farther and farther and finally disappeared altogether. Phil and I later named our golden retriever Juneau in honor of the mine -- a much better investment.

My father's investments in copper, cars, and, later, chemicals were all indicative of his desire not only to make money but to participate in creating new frontiers. He very much admired E.H. Harriman for creating a railroad when railroads were new. That was the kind of thing he aspired to do, being in on the birth of an industry. He once asked James Russell Wiggins, when Russ was editor of the Post, what he would do if he could do exactly what he wanted. Russ replied that he supposed he'd write history, to which my father responded, "I wouldn't. I'd sooner make it."

In addition to his business problems, the first years following his marriage brought a number of personal troubles and tragedies. The worst was the loss of the youngest Meyer, Edgar, his partner and much-loved sibling, who went down on the Titanic after putting his wife and baby daughter in the last lifeboat. He was only twenty-eight. My father had been his much older brother -- almost a father figure, and certainly a mentor -- and he was painfully bereft. He was not close to many people; Edgar had been one of the very few.

He had my mother, of course, who always stood behind him staunchly when he needed it, but who seemed increasingly to resent running the big houses, who disliked social obligations, and who was shocked and discouraged by the pains of childbirth. She asked her obstetrician during Florence's birth why anyone had a second baby. As she herself wrote, "I became a conscientious but scarcely a loving mother."

By 1914, she had had my second sister, Elizabeth -- or Bis, as she was always known -- and was chafing so over what she felt as the "crushing" of her personality that my father encouraged her to go abroad. They initially thought of going together, but the gathering war clouds concerned him and he decided to stay home to look after his, by now, very large business. In addition, given her frustrations in acclimating to marriage and a family, they both saw the need for some distance between them, so they agreed that she would take the trip to Europe alone and they would correspond often. Indeed, all her life my mother found it easier to communicate from a distance, and she conversed with us children at least as much through letters as she did in person. I took this form of communication for granted.

For some reason, when she was in her old age and during my middle years, she suddenly gave me the letters that she and my father had exchanged while she was abroad in 1914. I'm not sure why. The strains between them were ill-concealed in these letters, which freely expressed their differences, his fairly unreasonable anger and jealousy, and her conflicting emotions.

Her first letters to him were written in May 1914, while she was still on the German steamship the Vaterland, headed for Bremen. Her very first letter asked why he had left the boat so long before it sailed. She was quite crushed, and ended the letter with "Kiss my babies. I have left my heart with you and them." She seems to have quickly got over any sadness at leaving them, however, since the next letter was full of details about her active social life on board -- she had been taken up by the very distinguished Mrs. Stotesbury of Philadelphia. She alternated these social details with more intimate comments. At one point she asks,

Are you thinking of me lovingly in spite of the fact that I have temporarily deserted you? This is a revolutionary age
even for the marital relationship and I hope that you will not cease having confidence in me and loving me when I have
a period of thinking things out. It only means that my feelings for you will be clearer and therefore finer.

Much of the European trip was a reconstruction of the artistic life she had created as a student there. She looked at and bought books and art in Berlin, Vienna, and Paris. She went with de Zayas to see what she called the "ultra-moderns." She "expected to be horrified" -- particularly by Picasso's work, since she had heard he used "pieces of wallpaper, newspaper and other actual things with which to construct his pictures" -- but she found his work "large as life and fascinating" and bought a small still life of "a pipe, a glass, a bottle and some grapes," the grapes having been set in sawdust. She called it a "real work of art," and paid $140 for it.

Fairly early on, she committed an almost fatal error from the point of view of her relationship with my father. She went for tea to the apartment of an old friend, Alfred von Heymel, whom she had met in Berlin through her onetime beau Otto Merkel the summer of her student year.

Instead of making things better, as she thought her writing from this distance would, her letter about this unchaperoned visit prompted a wonderfully old-fashioned row. She had told my father quite casually about going to von Heymel's apartment alone, but added that he should not be shocked, since the place was "full of domestics." There followed from my father -- all carefully preserved -- two letters of uncontrolled and repetitive rage at her having "gone alone to a man's apartment."

She cabled and wrote back that there was a misunderstanding and tried to give her side of the incident, but it was no use. The details didn't matter to him; what did matter was that he had to have confidence in her. He enumerated other occasions when he felt she hadn't used good sense. He felt that the liberty he wanted her always to feel was hers was being abused, and that if she really cared she would understand the serious consequences of her thoughtlessness. Incredibly, after saying all this, he said he hoped "nothing in this sounds like lecturing and preaching," signing the letter "with fondest love."

Despite the misunderstandings on both sides about this ill-fated von Heymel visit, she carried on with her trip and her letters. She wrote my father that she recognized that her whole existence had been devoted to life, whereas his had been devoted to work. She also said she hadn't been giving to him, which she concluded was not entirely her fault: "We have often scarcely seen each other. We have lived in the market place instead of building up a shrine of our own." She thought even their town house reflected this distance between them: "We have no room where one feels you and I actually live." She admitted to him that in the last year she had been terribly restless and dissatisfied and could feel his uneasiness: "I do not blame you. Only a blind man could have failed to be uneasy about the woman who left you but I do not think you will be uneasy about the woman who returns."

Indeed, in the letters she wrote during this interlude she tried to be supportive of him and analytical about herself, but to little avail. He wrote a final letter complaining that she hadn't written as often as she had promised, that she was always in a hurry, and that she would be coming home tired instead of rested. This letter ended with:

You say "Be happy and know that I shall work for you always in any and every way." This is a smart expression and I
am sure you would do so -- if you happened to think of it. Thinking after all is what counts.

Her last full week of what turned out to be more than two months in Europe she spent with the Steichens in their simple house in Voulangis, where he was growing and breeding delphiniums, a lifelong passion. With little to do, she wrote my father that she had grown "uneasy about you, the kids, the cook, the strawberries that weren't being preserved...."

She sailed for home on a Dutch steamer on July 31, as promised, and luckily, too, since it was one of the last boats to leave Europe before World War I erupted two weeks later. Steichen's house was near to what became the front as the Germans threatened to break through at the first Battle of the Marne. Ignorant of his extreme danger, Steichen cabled my father asking what he ought to do. "Suggest immediate orderly retreat," was my father's firm reply. The Steichens were just able to leave for America and took refuge at Mount Kisco with my parents.

On her way home, my mother had a nightmare in which she saw herself as her father, irresponsible and self-absorbed to the extent of ruining his family's life and hers. She made up her mind not to be like that. And, in fact, the time away, despite the stormy exchanges, seems to have helped. She returned with a new commitment to this difficult relationship, determined to make it work. In a letter she had mentioned resting up before enduring more of "the baby business." I suppose her assumption was that she would have one every two years -- and, indeed, she had my brother Bill a year later. And two years after that, on June 16, 1917, I was born.

Meet the Author

Katharine Graham is fondly remembered as the powerful, longtime publisher of the Washington Post. She died in 2001.

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Personal History 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had been meaning to read this for awhile, and never found the time - glad I finally did. One of the first women to hold a true position of power; and one of the most influential and captivating women in contemporary America Graham tells of making it inspite of and despite considerable odds- including the fact that she was born to wealth, married to a genius suffering from manic- depression, and then publisher/owner of the Washington Post. She was a legendary figure that shows herself as being human all too human, writing of her mistakes, of overcoming, enjoying and learning from obstacles and privileges. The book offers slices of American history from the inside, not only Watergate but also major characters such as Warren Buffet. It chronicles both her personal and then professional life at the Washington Post- recounting history (hers, the Wposts' and the nations') from her point of view. It tells of the need to keep on moving forward, even when in doubt of the path to take, of making a tough call and sticking to it- perserverance with elegance. Not only a fascinating history of the Washington Post from the inside but also an incredible odessey of personal growth and empowerment.
Gamma46 More than 1 year ago
I really did not know much about Katharine Graham until reading her personal history. Quite an amazing story. She writes with such honesty about herself it was sometimes heart wrenching. Well written and most interesting.
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Granuaile More than 1 year ago
And the history wasn't so personal. Too much detail about other people. It might have well as been Her husband's biography.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Katharine Graham not only tells a complete story of her life but also of the Washington that she lived in.She doesnt shy away from any of her struggles or painful moments.I liked the way she shared her life from the time she was a child, to her marriage, to old age. This creates a good read but it can get a little lengthy. Other than that it is a powerful read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a female journalist in a male-dominated industry, I was captivated by Katherine Graham's "Personal History." Graham was at the helm of one of the nation's largest newspapers at a time when very few women held positions of power. Everyone, regardless of their gender, can learn much from the way she handled herself in various situations, both professionally and personally. The historical insight and personal details added so much to the book. This is one of my all time favorites!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This autobiography was published just before Ms. Graham died. I would have liked to listen to the recently released Watergate tapes with her in her private quarters. I know her laughter would have shook the building.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just recently finished Personal History and the only real thing that I learned was how many people this woman actually knew in her life. I didn't feel that we really got to know Katharine. It seemed that all she wanted to include in her book is how each of the thousands of people that she mentioned amazingly touched her life. This is my first serious biography that I have ever read, so that may be the way they all are. But this will probably be my last. I agree she led an exciting life, but if I had grown up with that much money, I might have been able to do all of those things too. I wanted to know the real stories, like why she felt the way she did about her husband, what was her real relationship with her children. I just wasn't moved by this story or her life in any way except to say this is not a book worth reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book changed my life...amazing. What a woman. Everybod should read this book; it is absolutely gripping. An insider's view of a certain period of American history - it will leave you with a different spin on the world (if you are anything like me).
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ms. Katharine Graham¿s autobiography explores many dimensions of life that will appeal to readers: lifestyles of the rich and famous with her celebrity and society friends; an inside look at one of America¿s most powerful and famous families in the 20th century; overcoming the personal tragedy of being married to a brilliant, manic-depressive cheater who was nasty to her; a history of the rise of the Washington Post from a minor D.C. paper to the top ranks of international journalism; becoming the head of a family that had been dominated by strong personalities who had put her in a supporting role; seeing the interactions of the press with presidents up close; and learning to be a female publisher and CEO on the job with almost no prior experience. If you are like me, you will find the sections of the book about her growing up as Andre Meyer¿s daughter, Watergate, the strike with the pressman¿s union at the Post, and her relationship with Warren Buffett to be the most interesting parts of the book. If, like me, you decide that you find Ms. Graham appealing, it will probably be because of her willingness to do the right thing, even when very painful and dangerous to her, and her loyalty to others . . . even when that loyalty may not have been earned. Even to her enemies, she held out olive branches to keep lines of communication open . . . which were often rejected. Although the book is candid about her own failings (having been too sheltered as a child and wife, making lots of mistakes in picking and working with people at the Washington Post Company, and being too accepting of male chauvinism) and family members who are deceased (especially her father, mother, and husband), she pulls back from any significant observations about many of her friends and acquaintances who are still living. You will see these people primarily from the perspective of having been lunch and dinner companions and guests. A curtain of privacy is also pulled over long sections of her life. For example, you will find out the names of the people and the yacht that she disappeared on for several weeks, but nothing about what occurred. On the other hand, CEO autobiographies usually toot the horn of the CEO. The closest this one comes to tooting is quoting Warren Buffett in pointing out that Washington Post Company stock grew more than double the rate of any other similar company during the time when she was CEO. Actually, even that observation is modest. As measured by stock-price performance, Ms. Graham is one of the great CEOs of the 20th century. She has also left behind a legacy of commitment to a free press from the Pentagon Papers publication and the Watergate exposures that will stand as a beacon for future publishers. In either case, she could have lost the bulk of her wealth and influence had things turned out differently. Most CEOs would be reluctant to take those kinds of risks in the public interest. Certainly, there was no financial windfall to taking these courses. It was simply the right thing to do. Thank you, Ms. Graham! Have you ever been in a situation where you were supposed to know how to do something, but had no clue? Throughout her business career, Ms. Graham was placed in that awkward situation. Towards the end of the book, she reveals that she wished that she had attended Harvard Business School. Throughout her business career, Ms. Graham reveals here feeling like a fraud and not knowing what questions to ask. But in business, it¿s usually more important what you do than what you know. And she kept moving forward until she found a method that worked. That kind of perseverance takes great moral courage, and I was impressed to realize just how much more difficult her accomplishments were to achieve than they seemed to outsiders. Where should you be taking a more active role in choosing your life¿s direction? Where should you be more understanding of friends and family members? Whe
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished Personal History and really enjoyed it. Katharine Graham must have been an incredible woman. She led a fascinating life. In her book, she reflects on her life in an incredibly personal way that is both insightful and inspiring. I rarely find people who I feel I can truly look up to - esp. women in the business world. This book gave me someone I can truly hope to emulate.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The tapes are an abridged version of the book, which I didn't know prior to purchasing. Nonetheless, this was a fantastic tale told by a remarkable woman. A storybook life told with brutal honesty. A Pulitzer Prize was well earned and the world has lost a phenomenal woman. A book I will make my daughters read someday.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Katherine Graham will always leave a legacy that will be an indelible mark upon the publishing/writing world. Her dedication and perserverence in making the Washington Post and its enterprises into what they are today is a testimonial to the willpower and dtermination of this wonderful woman who shall be sorely missed in the literary and journalism world. Katherine Graham was thrust upon the scene in a time when the United States was in the process of undergoing one of the worst upheavels in our history. Fate would have it that two reporters on her staff would make the key discoveries that would lead to the downfall of a president. However, what is often overlooked in that story is that while the threat of collapse was upon her, Katherine Graham stood by her staff and doggedly pushed them on, even when faced with the downfall of her growing enterprise, should the story have been not what it seemed. This was typical Katherine Graham. A woman who knew what she wanted out of her life and strode to get it. The life of this great woman should be viewed as an example of perserverence. Most times remarks like that are made about ficticious characters. True, as the author of Strike Hard I found that when creating fictional characters, we all have a sense of success and achievement. However, this story is not fiction, yet shines as a beacon to any and all who have a dream, desire, or goal in their life. Katherine Graham had a determination to make something out of her life and out of the Post, and she did both with elegance, pride, and an unwaiverable determination that allowed her success.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When people say she is 'brutally honest', in reviews, they are correct and at great pain to herself. As Ben Bradlee said at her funeral, 'She was a spectacular dame, and I loved her very much', as did all of us who had the honor of knowing her. You can only learn from this book as you travel a most interesting life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Of course, she is anything but how she originally felt about herself, dowdy and dull. It's an amazing story about how she fought back to capture her abilities and become well known for power among freinds, family and the bigwigs. I wish she would tell a little more about herself on a lighter note. She really bashes her self-esteem, what self-esteem? Personally, I think she deserves every bit of the praise she has finally received and fought so hard for. Her children should be proud and continue to enlighten the public with her hopes, goals and love of getting out the truth.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read Martha Graham's PERSONAL HISTORY a couple of years ago while making some very big changes in my life. I continue to believe that her very honest story got me through the difficult journey. I will also always feel honored that we shared the same birth date, June 16th. What a gal!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is the next selection my book group, See Jane Read has selected. I decided to read the first chapter online. As I read, I immediately thought of Eleanor Roosevelt's biography. Did these two families know everyone! Incredible-makes you want to keep notes on your own life and be gracious to welcome strangers into yours.