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Deciding on an unsettled profession


USA was 'heaven on Earth’
Katharine Whitehorn Writer
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[Q] What were the things that really struck you in America? Was it the food, the cars, the clothes...?

Well some of it... clothes, of course. Marvellous, marvellous clothes. No food shortages. I remember sending a photograph home of a picnic I was at. And of course, you know, picnics with tables, that sort of thing we never had in Europe. And the thing that really shook my family was the enormous size of the banana that I happened to be eating at the time. And I think an awful lot of it that was still very wrong with America in those days, I didn’t know about. Because one walked around looking at the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial and thinking this is the ideal place.

And... simply didn’t know about all the stuff that one was aware of with the civil rights movement, you know, the blacks who couldn’t vote and this kind of thing. It was still heaven on earth as far as we... okay, naïve, but a lot in it too. And it wasn’t just... it wasn’t just the affluence of everything, it was also the, sort of, openness of people to other people. Sort of cheery friendliness of it.

A distinguished journalist and renowned author, Katharine Whitehorn (1928-2021) has written for The Spectator and Picture Post. She was the first woman to have her own column in the Observer and was their star columnist for the best part of 40 years. Educated at Newnham College, Cambridge, is recognised as someone who has transformed 20th century women's journalism. She took a keen interest in social welfare issues, was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine and was the first woman rector of the University of St Andrews.

Listeners: Bob Bee

Bob Bee is a Scottish documentary maker who has made many films on the Arts and Science for ITV, BBC and Channel Four.

Tags: USA, civil rights movement, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial

Duration: 1 minute, 20 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2010

Date story went live: 16 February 2011