The Old Schools, Trinity Ln, Cambridge CB2 1TN, England
Meg attended the Bush School in Seattle and was graduated summa cum laude in 1952 from Smith College. From 1952 to 1953, she spent at Newnham College, Cambridge University, as a Fulbright scholar studying the poetry of William Blake.
She held honorary doctorates from Smith College (1978), Georgetown University (1979), Wesleyan University (1982), Williams College (1987) and Princeton University (1990).
Greenfield worked for the Reporter beginning in 1957, a magazine that focused on commentary and analysis. She remained unknown until publishing a hard-hitting, negative appraisal of Nixon during his 1960 presidential campaign. Greenfield eventually rose to editor of the Reporter until 1968 when the magazine folded. In that tumultuous year, she joined The Washington Post editorial department, where she became deputy editor (1970) and then editor (1979) of the editorial page, a position she held until the time of her death. She also wrote a bi-weekly column for Newsweek from1974 to 1999.
After a three-year battle with cancer, Meg died on May 13, 1999, in Washington.
Greenfield commonly wrote about and exposed dysfunction in the Washington political scene, including the racism and sexism inherent in the capitals journalistic circles.
Meg was interested in Augustine and classical authors concerned with ethics, which is not surprising since in her own writing Meg was concerned with the decline of ethics and civility in public life. But it was mostly the comic writer Plautus, especially his portrayal of life's ironies and absurdities, that captured her imagination. Meg delighted in the timeless quality of Plautus' humor and in his talent for word play, especially when it came at the expense of the pompous and self-important.
"There is such a thing as tempting the gods. Talking too much, too soon and with too much self-satisfaction has always seemed to me a sure way to court disaster. The forces of retribution are always listening. They never sleep."
"Everybody's for democracy in principle. It's only in practice that the thing gives rise to stiff objections."
"Ninety percent of politics is deciding whom to blame."
"If a politician murders his mother, the first response of the press or of his opponents will likely be not that it was a terrible thing to do, but rather that in a statement made six years before he had gone on record as being opposed to matricide."
"In Washington it is an honor to be disgraced. You have to have been somebody to fall."
Greenfield was a member of the American Society Newspaper Editors and Phi Beta Kappa.
With humor, irony and a rare intelligence, Greenfield explored the folkways of Washington. No one was better at illuminating central issues obscured in the political fog or at puncturing hype and cant. Tough-minded but never cynical, she took the problems of government seriously in an age when many only mock them.
In Washington, Greenfield was a special presence. Her gift for fun and friendship, mingled with a supreme talent for conversation, helped lubricate the sandy gears of the capital with civility that it has increasingly lacked.
Her dinner parties and social events in both Washington had become almost legendary. The Fourth of July celebrations at her Bainbridge Island home near Seattle brought some of the nation's and the region's most famous citizens together with some of us more ordinary folk.
In 1989, she began making annual gifts for a scholarship in Classics named for her beloved late brother, Jim. Meg's friends and associates were aware of her love of English literature and her genius for knowing exactly the right turn of phrase to express a thought. Fewer people, however, knew that reading Latin was a form of relaxation for Meg.
Quotes from others about the person
"To her readers, Meg Greenfield was an incomparable guide to the mysterious ways of Washington and our national political life. To many of us at NEWSWEEK, she was simply a wise, warm, witty and wonderful friend." - Richard M. Smith, NEWSWEEK Chairman and Editor-in-Chief
Greenfield was never married and had no children.
Meg's connection to the Classics Department originated in her friendship with the then-UW president William P. Gerberding.