Katharine Whitehorn

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

Early life

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

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

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