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Mary Whitehouse


Courtesy the Times http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,60-2001543588,00.html

Tireless campaigner who braved derision and abuse in her crusade against screen sex and violence

Mary Whitehouse was a 53-year-old art teacher at Madeley Secondary School in Shropshire, married to an industrial coppersmith, and the mother of three sons, when she launched the Clean Up TV campaign in 1964. As a senior mistress she was responsible for the health and welfare of her pupils, and had begun to detect sexual and moral confusion in their minds over what they saw on television.

The decision to become the self-appointed guardian of Britain’s morals stemmed from her pupils’ reaction to a BBC Meeting Point programme on premarital sex, which prompted her to write the first of many letters of protest and concern. “My objection was not to the discussion of the subject,” she wrote, “but to the refusal of those who might be expected to be clear and able spokesmen of the Church, to commit themselves to a firm position on right and wrong.” She continued: “The programme remains as a landmark in the creation of ‘the permissive society’ and a classic example of the power of television to create and change patterns of thought and behaviour.”

As a strong practising Christian, whose own beliefs had been formed by many years’ membership of Moral Rearmament, she had become increasingly disturbed by what she called the “new morality” of 1963, a year she considered “climactic” because of the satirical television show That Was The Week That Was, the coverage of the Profumo scandal and the publication of the Bishop of Woolwich’s Honest to God, which stated that sex before marriage was not unchaste. Her conviction that this was wrong was based on personal experience. At the age of 20 she had fallen in love with a married man 16 years her senior, but she returned him to his wife. A few years later she met Ernest Whitehouse, who quietly supported her through her campaigns.

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