Born on 13 July 1910, and married to Ernest Whitehouse in 1940, Constance Mary Whitehouse (nee Hutcheson) was an art teacher and mother of three who campaigned vociferously for more than 30 years against sex, violence and blasphemy on television, stage and screen in Great Britain.
During the social turmoil of the 1960s, she believed relentless violence on television led to a violent society, and that the exploitation of sex was destroying Britain’s morality.
To some, she was a crank, to others an admirable figure fighting to hold back a tide of smut about to engulf Britain.
Mrs Whitehouse tangled repeatedly with the BBC, whose early evening sex education programme triggered her ‘Clean Up TV’ campaign in 1964.
BBC Director-General Hugh Greene – who ran the Corporation from 1960 to 1969 – largely ignored her concerns and even blocked her from participating in BBC programming.
Her organisation became the National Viewers And Listeners Association the following year, and she acted as its president until she stepped down in 1994.
It wasn’t just television. In 1971 she complained about the cinema release of Stanley Kubrick’s violent thriller A Clockwork Orange. She also campaigned against pop songs whose lyrics she objected to, with varying degrees of success – Alice Cooper sent her a bunch of flowers as thanks for the publicity she inadvertently gave his song School’s Out in 1972, which he believed helped it get to #1 in the charts.
Variously called “the most dangerous woman in Britain”, “the Queen of Clean” and “the Archangel of Anti-Smut,” Whitehouse became, in the end, a beloved national institution, though she achieved far less than she sought.
Her campaign had its successes, though, leading to stronger laws against the sexual exploitation of children and obscenity on television, and the establishment of a watchdog group to raise standards in British broadcasting.
Whitehouse died on 23 November 2001 at a nursing home in Colchester after a long illness. She was 91.