Katharine Whitehorn

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Katharine Elizabeth Whitehorn CBE (born 1928) is a British journalist, writer, and columnist who is known for her wit and humour and as a keen observer of the changing role of women.

Early life[edit]

Born in Hendon, she was educated at the private Roedean School in Brighton, Glasgow High School for Girls (closed in the 1970s), and Newnham College, Cambridge.


She was a sub-editor for a women's magazine in 1956, when Picture Post photographer Bert Hardy asked her to model for him. She caught a big break, then, when he photographed her for a story on loneliness in London, and one Hardy photo of her sitting by a fire with a cigarette, as if thinking to write an article instead of being lonely, became an advertisement for the energy drink Lucozade. She wrote for Picture Post just before it closed and then worked as a columnist for The Observer in London from 1960 until 1996. As of January 2013, her weekly column continues to appear in The Observer magazine. A 1963[1] article on sluts, in the sense of 'slovenly women', and identifying herself with the term, created a minor sensation:

Have you ever taken anything out of the dirty-clothes basket because it had become, relatively, the cleaner thing? Changed stockings in a taxi? Could you try on clothes in any shop, any time, without worrying about your underclothes? How many things are in the wrong room—cups in the study, boots in the kitchen?[2]

She served as the Rector of the University of St Andrews from 1982 to 1985. Since 1997, she has written a monthly column for Saga Magazine.

Whitehorn was interviewed by National Life Stories (C467/19) in 2009 for the 'Oral History of the British Press' collection held by the British Library.[3]

Whitehorn was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to journalism.[4]


In 2009, she began presenting the short philosophical Friday evening programme on Radio 4 entitled A Point of View.

Personal life[edit]

She married the novelist Gavin Lyall in 1958 in Marlborough, a marriage that lasted until his death in 2003. They had two sons.


Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Her book Cooking in a Bedsitter (originally Kitchen in the corner: A complete guide to bedsitter cookery), first published in 1961 and a classic of its kind, remained in print for thirty-five years.
  • Selective Memory by Katharine Whitehorn, 2007, published by Little Brown

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Tim Brooke-Taylor
Rector of the University of St Andrews
Succeeded by
Stanley Adams