The pioneering Observer columnist paved the way for many who followed

A lot of people – readers and writers alike – would have had a nasty jolt on seeing that the pioneering journalist Katharine Whitehorn has died, aged 92. Maybe “lady” newspaper columnists like myself felt a particular stab of loss. There’s no doubt Whitehorn inspired whole generations of female columnists but, first, she pretty much invented us all.

Whitehorn was one of those journalists, that special breed, who singlehandedly yet almost casually sparked an entire newspaper genre, then spent their career embodying the best of it. It was Whitehorn, in her groundbreaking Observer column, starting in the 1960s, who liberated the true female voice. I say “true” not as in a pastiche of the serious-minded male commentators who dominated that era. Nor as some idealised superwoman whose byline existed purely to make every other female feel woefully lacking. Definitely not as some gobby opinion-monger without portfolio (why are you all looking at me?).

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