She was a figure of widescale derision, perhaps hardly surprisingly when she demanded that the word 'knickers' be removed from the Beatles 'I Am A Walrus' prior to broadcast on TV, complained about Mick Jagger's suggestive microphone positioning and as for Chuck Berry - he could keep his disgusting 'Ding-A-Ling!' to himself, stateside! All these and more legendary demands for 'public decency' long before two young comedians thought to wind her up with their TV comedy show The Mary Whitehouse Experience.
Now I read we children had reason to be more grateful to this retired RE teacher than we imagined as she was the one who exposed that PIE (the Paedophile Information Exchange - yes they really were that blatant back then) was being partly funded by government money and even had supporters from within the Home Office. Not only had PIE hitched its bandwagon to The National Council for Civil Liberties (now Liberty) where it found naive support among some now-senior political figures (sic recent scandal), it had attempted to do the same with feminism and the Gay Liberation Front. In an age of 'anything goes', it chanced its arm to sneak in and pretend to be a valid maligned minority group arguing for its rights to be recognised and enshrined in law just like any other. Not to mention the rights of children to sleep with ancient raddled adults (don't remember waving my junior placard on that particular protest).
Had Mary Whitehouse not shone a timely torch on PIE and their activities, who knows how much further PIE might have got?
Here is a chilling BBC interview with two of the proponents of PIE arguing for the age of consent to be abolished, incest to be legalised, and claiming that it is child molesters who are the dodgy ones out to exploit children - 'paedophiles love children' - the term paedophile meaning 'lover of children'. The interviewer seems worryingly out of his depth too in coming up with effective counter-arguments or killer questions.
Of course even in this area Mary Whitehouse did not always get her moral radar right. When her National Viewers and Listeners Association decided to dish out annual awards to what they considered fine and upstandingly wholesome British TV shows, Jimmy Savile won one for 'Jim'll Fix It' and Mrs Whitehouse was quoted as sighing; 'If only they were all like that nice Mr Savile.'
How she must be turning in her grave now, poor dear.
At the end of the day though Mrs W was proven right in her suspicion that standards were in steep decline. Nowadays you don't even have to wait for the 9pm watershed to witness scenes of gratuitous sex, violence and swearing on TV. Then computer games, the internet and mobile devices came along. Now any individual of any age can watch anything, anytime, almost anywhere. It's like the nation has lost any sense of responsibility towards its young or vulnerable. Either that or I am getting old and this isn't really happening. On the flip side at least most youngsters know what a paedophile is these days (without it having to be explained to them by a broadcaster) and forewarned is forearmed. The law also takes paedophile crimes seriously nowadays as oppose to just sweeping them under the carpet and encouraging any victims brave enough to come forward to just forget about it as the law would have done in the 70s and 80s. Though as broadcaster Matthew Parris opines, plenty of right-minded individuals were as horrified by PIE in the 1970s/80s as we would be today, and it is thanks to their efforts then that PIE was eventually forced to officially disband in 1984, mission for acceptance, legal rights and protection for their activities unfulfilled. Thankfully.