‘Have you ever taken anything out of the dirty clothes basket because it had become, relatively, the cleaner thing?’ Katharine Whitehorn's memoir begins with this quotation from what she describes as the most remembered article she ever wrote. We have become so used to confessional lifestyle journalism that it’s difficult to believe how liberating such candour seemed in the 1960s, when Whitehorn’s weekly column put into print experiences that almost all women had shared and almost none had felt able to express. Sacks of adulatory letters came from all over the world. One was from my 83-year-old Israeli grandmother.
Those were the years when the painful realisation that women weren't built simply to breed and bake was beginning to spread beyond the untypical world in which Katharine Whitehorn grew up. In her family a girl received as good an education as her brother, though Katharine hated or ran away