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Diaries of Mary Whitehouse


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Comprises Mary Whitehouse's campaigning diaries 1967-1997, press cuttings, correspondence and other material contained in the diaries, and miscellaneous press cuttings and correspondence.


  • Creation: Creation: Majority of material found within Bulk, 1967-1997
  • Creation: Creation: 1953-1998


3.6 Linear metres (62 boxes)

Language of Materials

  • English

English. Some Danish and Swedish.

Conditions Governing Access

Material of a sensitive personal nature and royal correspondence is closed.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. 12864/1].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. 12864/1-62

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 12864, 15411


Campaigning diaries of (Constance) Mary Whitehouse (1910-2001), schoolteacher and campaigner.

Biographical / Historical

Constance Mary Whitehouse (née Hutcheson) was born 1910 in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. She was raised in Shrewsbury, then in Chester, and studied at Chester City Grammar School. On leaving school she did a two year unpaid apprenticeship at St John’s School, Chester before going on to study at Cheshire County Teacher Training College, where she specialised in secondary school art teaching. She qualified as a teacher in 1932. Her first job as an art teacher at Lichfield Road School, Wednesfield, where she worked for eight years.

While a student, Whitehouse was involved in the Student Christian Movement, and in 1935 she joined the Wolverhampton Branch of the Oxford Group. There she met her husband, Ernest Raymond Whitehouse. They married in 1940 and had five sons, including twins who died in infancy.

In 1960 when her youngest son turned 16, Whitehouse returned to full-time teaching. She was an art teacher at Madeley School for Girls, and was also given responsibility for sex education. Her shock at the morals beliefs of her pupils spurred her to campaign against what she viewed as the declining moral standards of the age. The launch of the ‘Clean Up TV’ campaign came in 1964, following the rebuffing of complaints about BBC and Parliament’s decision to renew the BBC licence for another 12 years. The campaign soon evolved into the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association (NVALA, now Mediawatch-UK), which was founded 1965.

Mary Whitehouse was involved in many campaigns regarding depictions in the media of violence, sexual content and blasphemy. Where official action was not forthcoming, she brought about private prosecutions; famous examples of these include a charge of blasphemous libel brought against Gay News for publication of poem The Love That Dares to Speak Its Name by James Kirkup, and an unsuccessful action brought against Michael Bogdanov for his production of the play The Romans in Britain. She was a key figure in campaigns to criminalise child pornography and child abuse, leading to the introduction of the Protection of Children Act 1978. Other legislation she lobbied for include the Indecent Displays (Control) Act 1981 and the Video Recordings Act 1984.

Despite seriously injuring her back in 1988, Mary Whitehouse did not retire as President of the NVALA until 1994. She died in 2001 in a nursing home in Colchester.


The diaries originally contained numerous inserts (mainly press cuttings, but also letters) which were held in place by sometimes rusty paperclips. This was causing strain on the bindings. Conservation removed and rehoused the inserts, and their original locations were recorded. The diaries and the items removed from diaries are arranged by date. Miscellaneous documents not connected to the diaries are in a separate series and kept in their original order.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The diaries were donated to the Bodleian Library by Mary Whitehouse's son, Paul Whitehouse, and arrived in two accessions in February 2017 and October 2018.

Related Materials

The papers of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association are held in the Albert Sloman Library of the University of Essex.

Catalogue of the Diaries of Mary Whitehouse
Finding aid prepared by Francesca Alves
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom