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Greenfield was born in Seattle to a Jewish family, where she attended The Bush School. She graduated summa cum laude from Smith College in 1952. She also studied at Cambridge University as a Fulbright Scholar and was friends there with Norman Podhoretz, who also went on to a distinguished career in journalism.
She became influential in a male-dominated world and a close confidante of Post publisher Katharine Graham. She was awarded journalism's highest honor, a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing, in 1978 and spent 20 years as the editorial page editor for the Washington Post and 25 years as a columnist for Newsweek. She influenced generations of Washington Post writers.
She never married, something she came to regret. When diagnosed with cancer, Greenfield partly retired to Bainbridge Island in her native Washington, where she wrote a posthumously published memoir entitled Washington. She died of the disease, at age 68.
- McManus, Jeanne, "My Mercurial, brutal, brilliant woman boss," Washington Post, May 25, 2014, at A17, 2.
- Smith, J. Y., "Newsweek Columnist Meg Greenfield Dies," The Washington Post, May 14, 1999, at A1; Barringer, Felicity, "Meg Greenfield, Who Shaped Washington Post's Editorial Page, Dies at 68," New York Times, May 14, 1999.
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