Observer writer who revolutionised journalism with her bold, witty columns that tackled social concerns in a personal way

In the column she contributed to the Observer from 1963 until 1996, Katharine Whitehorn, who has died aged 92, did much to revolutionise the journalism that women wrote and read. She made her readers laugh, told them to stop trying to be perfect and brought their private concerns to public attention in ways that liberated lives – men’s as well as women’s. She then became the agony aunt for Saga magazine’s million readers over 50, answering their questions in her witty, sagacious and well-honed prose for 20 years from 1997, and also returned to the Observer from 2011.

She was a survivor, and she survived in style. A defining image of her adorned the cover of Whitehorn’s Social Survival (1968): the author in sparkling party mode, showing how to hold a bag, gloves, plate, cigarette, drink and fork in one hand, while leaving the other free “for shaking”. She claimed to have learned the technique while teaching in a charm school. While most such tricks and paraphernalia fell away in her lifetime, she went on.

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