In Remembrance: Mary Whitehouse

By: Dr. Ted Baehr; ©2002
What effect can a former schoolteacher have on the media? Plenty! Dr. Baehr remembers the life and efforts of a woman who waged a 30-year campaign against sex and violence on British television.


IN REMEMBRANCE: British Crusader Mary Whitehouse

Former schoolteacher Mary Whitehouse, who waged a persistent 30-year campaign against sex and violence on TV, died recently in London, England at age 91, after a long illness.

Whitehouse was described as “a good-natured woman who became the scourge of British broadcasters.” During the turbulent 1960s, Whitehouse came to believe that relent­less violence on television leads to a violent society and that the exploitation of sex de­stroys people’s moral fiber. Countless scientific studies have proven her correct.

Born June 13, 1910, Mrs. Whitehouse was an art teacher and, in the early 1960s, also taught sex education to high school girls. One day, she heard a girl say after watching a television program, “Now I know what’s right. I must not have intercourse until I am en­gaged.” Said Mrs. Whitehouse, “That (comment) brought home to me the tremendous power of the tube. Here was a normal, healthy girl who with a few words had been won over to a sub-Christian way of living. I had to do something about it.”

Quickly dubbed “Cleanup Mary” by the cynical, biased, bigoted secular press, Mrs. Whitehouse protested a TV play about back-street abortions, attacked a program poking fun at the Boy Scouts and complained to Lord Snowden, then Princess Margaret’s photog­rapher husband, that his television movie on old age promoted “mercy killing.” Her cam­paigns led to stronger laws against the sexual exploitation of children and against obscen­ity on TV, and the establishment of a watchdog group to raise broadcasting standards.

Mrs. Whitehouse shrugged off her critics in 1970, noting, “If we hadn’t been around, think how much worse things would have been!”

Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, head of the Church of England, praised her for making “an enormous contribution to public life.”

“Her belief that standards and decency were important brought her into conflict with some of the accepted norms of her day,” he added. “But in her time, she spoke for many people who were disturbed at things they saw and heard.”

Mrs. Whitehouse was the author of numerous book related to her views, including Cleaning Up TV (1966), Who Does She Think She Is? (1971), Whatever Happened to Sex? (1977), A Most Dangerous Woman (1982), Mightier Than the Sword (1985), and her autobiography, Mary Whitehouse, Quite Contrary (1993).

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