A Most Dangerous Woman? (Lion paperback £1.50).
I FELT ashamed that, like most of us I knew what this indomitable woman stood for and against — through these permissive and morally rotting years, yet I had never bothered to know, or even think about, what her inspired fighting cost her in sheer courage and selfspending.
Now that we have this, her own vivid story in paperback, there is no excuse for such ignorance. The hook is necessarily closely and factually written, following up significant details of the big "battles"; but it is always interesting.
There is no half-heartedness about the "public" people who have praise of this "deeply caring woman of faith, humour and exceptional courage."
George Thomas has described her as one of the most remarkable women of this generation. That does not suggest the image of a narrow kill-joy good for an easy joke by her extraordinary detractors.
Spike Milligan declares: "I thank God for a woman like Mary: I support her work." John Court's tribute is uncompromising: "The impact of her work has been felt around the world . . . she gives us hope".
The lively scholarship girl of the 20's who was punished by her headmistress for being found eating a Woolworth chocolate bar in the street (without the gloves which should accompany school uniform) . . . this daring schoolgirl grew into the woman who would challenge "top people" of Church and State, and various powerful institutions.
Her object was to catch and stop degrading and obscene material which was being produced for the entertainment and enjoyment — and even the instruction of anyone they reached . . . particularly the children.
The book has to be read carefully and right through by the reader who wants to grasp the subtleties of Mary's opponents. It is impossible to cover many "battles" here.
The Gay News blasphemy case in 1977 gave rise to a national paper's report that Mary Whitehouse and companions were praying for a verdict in their favour.
This fact, much distorted and embellished, was itself described as "not only repulsive but a blasphemy of the worst kind. . ."
Incidentally during this trial, Mary felt let down by the Church. She protested about lack of church support, esipecially in view of the fact that the material under examination disclosed an insulting description of Our Lord's sexual life — and described perverted practices on his dead body.
Dr Coggan, then Archbishop of Canterbury, replied:
"Cardinal Basil Hume and I refused to come forward as witnesses in the Gay News trial only after the most careful thought. We arc suggesting that a jury of twelve persons, who may in the main, or perhaps all, be non-believers, is far more likely to be influenced by an ordinary person who testifies that the poem satisfies the definition of blasphemy — than by 'professional' leaders like ourselves put up as witnesses".
That indeed is understandable, says the author, but it has been suggested many times since that the real reason why the church leaders did not wish to become involved lay in the topic of the poem, namely homosexuality.
And certainly a massive media campaign was launched to make it appear that my motivation was not love of Christ, but hatred of homosexuals. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Well the media can launch a campaign on anything it chooses as likely to interest its readers and listeners.
I do not think that the apparent "standing back" of church leaders need have left Mary with a feeling that "official" religion had failed her. We may be sure that the Church was behind her cause.
It is possible that Bishops in court would have stolen the headlines, and. whatever the verdict, started up rumours of "hanky-panky" ,which could have damaged both the author's cause and the bishops.
Mary Whitehouse began her working life as a teacher with first-hand experience of what some forms of "sex teaching" can do to a child. She describes an incident with telling exactness.
Throughout the author's adventurous battle she knows what she is talking about.
And sometimes she is obliged to speak with stark directness. In spite of much sordid material which must be mentioned and which Mary has been obliged to
discuss throughout her campaign — she retains a warm personality with a sense of humour intact. And best of all towards the end of her autobiography there emerges a sense of hope.