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Tough-talking, cigar-chomping General Curtis LeMay used to snarl at Washington: "I hate it. It's a woman's town." At its heart, of course, no city could be more male. It is the epicenter where, in the world's most powerful nation, men take part in the supreme rituals of power. The millions of lives and billions of dollars manipulated each day in the White House and the Capitol and the Pentagon are counters in the most stimulating game there is.
The men who seek out this kind of stimulation make Washington an adversary city where sides are always being chosen, points scored, issues joined. It is its own small state within a state, with its high priests and ceremonies, its secret societies and passwords.
Yet none of this could take place without the women of Washington. For it is the city's social life that assembles and disperses the players of the power game, enables them to communicate, and assess each other's characters and spark ideas. The harried men hurrying into black tie as night falls, dressing in their private office bathrooms because there isn't enough time to go home (one presidential aide regularly changes in the car while his wife drives), are likely to be yearning for surcease from the evening's pleasures, the social swirl that is really an extension of the day's business. But not a chance when beside him in limousine or taxi sits his wife—freshly coiffed at Jean-Paul's, swathed in a high style that she never wore in Pascatoola, and dropping names that sound like newspaper headlines. She knows the importance of what lies ahead. She knows precisely what Curtis LeMay was grousing about.
General LeMay's woman's town includes some potent and highly motivated females. Elegant Widow Katharine Graham, 63, presides with couturiered cool and a few well-chosen four-letter words over a communications realm that includes the Washington Post, Newsweek and three TV stations. An invitation to dinner at her handsome Georgetown house is a prize second only to dinner at the White House, and her guest list is guaranteed to be more stimulating. At a party she threw to celebrate Columnist Joseph Alsop's 60th birthday, 140 guests sat down to dine under a tent two stories high. At her first party last month for Lady Hartwell (whose husband runs London's Daily Telegraph), Kay Graham threw Social Lion Henry Kissinger into a den of Democrats, including Robert McNamara, Clark Clifford, Averell Harriman and Jack Valenti. At a second Hartwell party, the guests included Chief Justice Warren Burger, Secretary of State William Rogers, HEW Secretary Elliot Richardson and other prominent Administration figures. Among Mrs. Graham's English antiques and modern paintings the talk tends to be cosmopolitan and usually un-Republican.