Katharine Whitehorn

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Katharine Elizabeth Whitehorn CBE (born 1928) is a British journalist, writer, and columnist.

Early life[edit]

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


Whitehorn 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, the first woman rector of a Scottish University.[3] 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.[4] Whitehorn was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to journalism.[5]

Later life[edit]

In 2009, Whitehorn began presenting some editions of the short philosophical Friday evening programme on Radio 4 entitled A Point of View. In late May 2018, it was reported that she was living in a care home suffering from Alzheimer's disease.[6]

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.
  • Roundabout (articles reprinted from “The Spectator”) [London : Methuen & Co., 1962]
  • Only on Sundays [London : Methuen, 1966]
  • Observations [London : Methuen, 1970]
  • Sunday Best [London : Eyre Methuen, 1976]
  • View from a Column [London : Eyre Methuen, 1981]
  • Selective Memory by Katharine Whitehorn, 2007, published by Little Brown


  1. ^ Aimee Shalan "Selective Memory: An Autobiography", The Guardian, 7 August 2008
  2. ^ quoted in "Columnists: How to Succeed as a Slut", TIME, 24 January 1964
  3. ^ MacIntyre, Lorn (22 March 1990). "Those salad days of flour power". The Glasgow Herald. Retrieved 31 December 2018.
  4. ^ National Life Stories, 'Whitehorn, Katharine (1 of 7) National Life Stories Collection: 'Oral History of the British Press', The British Library Board, 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  5. ^ "No. 60728". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2013. p. 9.
  6. ^ Toynbee, Polly (29 May 2018). "The writer Katharine Whitehorn would rather die than live like this". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 May 2018.

External links[edit]

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