Address by Barbara Wootton

Barbara Wootton produced a shortened text for her talk on 19 February which was published in the University Humanist Federation Bulletin for Autumn 1963 and reprinted in The Freethinker of 13 December 1963:






















[With grateful acknowledgement for the images to the Mistress and Fellows of Girton College, Cambridge, who hold the Barbara Wootton archive.]

[Hilary 1963]

Hilary 1963: letters to Francis Crick

The Wellcome Library has copies of two letters to Francis Crick about his visit on 29 January – not the original invitation but one to agree the date (itself dated with the wrong year!) and another that crossed with one from Crick’s secretary about final arrangements:

The Wellcome references are:
Shelfmark: PP/CRI/E/1/11/3:Box 34
Reference number: b1818070x
Persistent URL:
Catalogue record:

[Hilary 1963]     [Posters]       [Opposing the SCM Mission]      [Isis on the Humanists]

[Unmarried but pregnant]        [Behaviour of the Press]        [Women in the Union]

[Other press coverage]

Trinity 1963 – press coverage: other

With all the superiority resulting from a full term in which women had been members of the Oxford Union, OUHG gained some publicity when the USSR launched a woman into space with a tongue-in-cheek telegram to the Cambridge Union Society (Oxford Mail, 17 June 1963):

This was picked up in The Times (probably 18 June 1963):

This was not the end of the OUHG’s high spirits.  Cherwell on 3 May noted:














Ex-president Leonard Evans began his baiting of the New Daily with spoof letters (see his masterpiece about the 1964 Easter card here) but had not yet invented his alter ego J C Pini. Here (19 June 1963) he attacked the idea that the decent readers of the New Daily should have to read about the likes of the “subversive” Barbara Wootton:















But he had not yet learnt the extremes to which the New Daily would allow him to go – this (3 July 1963) was barely more than the Clean-Up TV Campaign was already saying:

Leonard did not always have his tongue in his cheek: he was in the Daily Herald on 23 May :  















and in the Daily Mirror two days later (25 May 1963):










Soon after, ex-president and early feminist Josephine Newcombe was reviewing Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique in Isis (12 June 1963):



























The whole Committee of OUHG came together to support Minutes Secretary Terry Deakin who had letters in the Times Literary Supplement (17 May 1963) deploring the British Museum/Library’s relegation of “erotic and subversive literature” to closed shelves:














Ex-president David Pollock had letters published: twice in the Daily Herald – the first on 10 May 1963:









and the second on 26 June:










and another in the New Statesman (28 June 1963):

Intervarsity (autumn 1963) (the magazine of the evangelical Intervarsity Fellowship) recognised in a review the general view of OICCU (the Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union) and in a report from OICCU reported that OUHG had made itself felt at when they put on an “evangelistic sermon” on the theme “Humanism – is it enough?”:

The OUHG’s success – along with the burgeoning of humanist groups in other universities – was undoubtedly one spur that drove the national organisations – the Ethical Union and the Rationalist Press Association – to come together and form a jointly sponsored British Humanist Association, as noted by Kingsley Martin in the London Evening Standard (25 May 1963):

(NB: This “umbrella” British Humanist Assocation ran into charity law difficulties and collapsed, and in 1967 the Ethical Union changed its name to British Humanist Association – today’s BHA therefore dates back to 1896, when the Union of Ethical Societies was formed.)

At the same time the University Humanist Federation, like OUHG founded by Tony Brierley, who was now working for the Ethical Union, was prospering, as this cutting from The Humanist (September 1963) shows – and OUHG had produced its latest Bulletin:



















[Trinity 1963]       [Church of England Newspaper article]       [Press coverage – meetings]


Trinity 1963 – press coverage: meetings

Several meetings this term were given serious reviews in Isis while others were noticed elsewhere.  The first reviewed in Isis was Alasdair MacIntyre’s address on suicide (8 May 1963):

The following week it was Isaiah Berlin who was commanding “rapt attention” (Isis, 15 May 1963):


























Cherwell (17 May 1963) gave much less attention to Professor R O  Kapp:


John Robinson, the bishop of Woolwich, had just published his radical (but derivative) small book Honest to God which was making waves nationally.  His OUHG meeting was doubly covered in Cherwell (1 June 1963):






























Isis combined its review of the bishop with one of the psychologist Stephen Coates (29 May 1963):

but returned to the bishop the following week, opening its columns to OUHG ex-president Clive Jones (Isis, 6 June 1963):




































[Trinity 1963]        [Church of England Newspaper article]         [Other press coverage]

Hilary 1963 – press coverage – other

Cherwell wrote up the term’s programme (19 January 1963):

It also reported in the same issue a row with Vade Mecum, the termly listings magazine:













Peter Simple’s “Way of the World” column in the Dailty Telegraph found OUHG well enough known to be worth satirising – the final paragraph is a reference to this.

Several of the term’s meetings attracted coverage. Francis Crick’s address in Second Week was reported in the Oxford Mail (30 January 1963):



















and in Cherwell  (2 February 1963):






















The debate between Anthony Quinton and R W Southern was reported in Cherwell (9 February 1963):

Barbara Wootton came in Fifth Week.  A version of her talk, prepared by herself, is available here.  It was reported in the Oxford Mail (20 February 1963)
and in Cherwell (23 February 1963):





















and in Isis (6 March 1963):



















The following week J D Bernal came, as reported in the Oxford Mail (27 February 1963):





















and in Cherwell (2 March 1963) whose story referred back to the “pregnant, unmarried humanist” saga and went on to anticipate a later meeting in the term when a speaker was coming from the Eugenics Society:
















Even OUHG’s discussion meetings were reported: this from Isis (6 March 1963):
 and this from the Daily Mirror (11 February 1963):























In addition, the flamboyant and luxuriantly moustached Sir Gerald Nabarro MP got into the act, if somewhat obscurely, both in the London Evening Standard (27 February 1963):
























and the next morning’s Daily Herald (28 February 1963):














In June 1963 The Humanist noted the OUHG’s successful term:












[Hilary 1963]       [Posters]       [Opposing the SCM Mission]      [Isis on the Humanists]

[Unmarried but pregnant]        [Behaviour of the Press]        [Women in the Union]

[Correspondence with Francis Crick]

Hilary 1963 – getting women into the Union

This was the term in which after endless years of argument and campaigning women were at last admitted to the Oxford Union Society. OUHG members were prominent in the campaign, as was acknowledged in this report in the Oxford Mail (30 October 1962):

But in the ballot that term the reformers fell five votes short of the two-thirds majority that was required: 903 votes for, 459 against. In Hilary 1963 the OUHG press produced a ‘polling card’ for the ballot and OUHG members canvassed assiduously.


At last the battle was won, by 1,039 votes to 427, and after a futile last ditch attempt to use the blackballing rule to bar all women applicants (a rule promptly abolished) women were admitted. Former OUHG committee member “Deirdre Wilson, 21” got her photo in the Daily Mail‘s gossip column (12 February 1963) along with eight other aspirant members.


[Hilary 1963]       [Posters]       [Opposing the SCM Mission]      [Isis on the Humanists]

[Unmarried but pregnant]      [Behaviour of the Press]       [Other press coverage]

[Correspondence with Francis Crick]

Hilary 1963 – press behaviour condemned

The Isis series on the Humanists led to a letter from an “unmarried pregnant humanist” which brought Fleet Street down on Oxford en masse – and that led to strong criticism of the behaviour of press.

Cherwell was first off the mark (16 February 1963):




















Fortuitously the Oxford Union had a debate on the press, as the Oxford Mail reported on 22 February:































The debate was fully reported in Cherwell on 23 February 1963:



































Isis (27 February 1963) reported on the speech by its editor, Karen McLeod – the first woman member of the Oxford Union Society:












[Hilary 1963]       [Posters]       [Opposing the SCM Mission]      [Isis on the Humanists]

[Unmarried but pregnant]        [Women in the Union]        [Other press coverage]

[Correspondence with Francis Crick]




Hilary 1963 – an unmarried pregnant humanist

This was the letter (Isis, February 1963) that sparked everything.  It responded to an article in Isis‘s series on the Humanists.





















It had everything – Oxford, students and sex!  Fleet Street descended on Oxford, flashing cheque books around the Union bar looking – in vain – for anyone who would tell them the name of the father.  This was the Oxford Mail (14 February):






















On the same day came the Daily Express:

























and the Daily Sketch:













and the Daily Telegraph:
















and The Guardian:

The Peter Simple column in the Daily Telegraph picked up the story the next day:

The Oxford Mail had this story on 21 February:



















Notwithstanding, the Daily Express next day reported the opposite:


























The news even reached Southern Rhodesia (as it then was – newspaper and date unknown):










And the Ethical Union (now British Humanist Association) wrote in its March 1963 News and Notes:


Meanwhile criticism was building up of the behaviour of the press.


It is salutary to put the press furore into context.  The public and unashamed assertion of unmarried motherhood was a genuinely shocking at the time, as witness this cutting from The Humanist just a year earlier (January 1962) referring to an earlier incident when a “first year girl student” was “caught, it is alleged, in flagrante delicto” and Hector Hawton, editor of The Humanist opined that he could not “see how the college authorities could have failed to take a serious view” of the matter:





















[Hilary 1963]       [Posters]       [Opposing the SCM Mission]      [Isis on the Humanists]

[Behaviour of the Press]        [Women in the Union]        [Other press coverage]

[Correspondence with Francis Crick]

Hilary 1963 – Isis on the Humanists

Isis, edited in Hilary 1963 by Karen McLeod, published a series of articles assessing the Humanists.  They started with three articles on 6 February.











On 13 February 1963 Isis followed up with a final article:









The same issue carried three letters:

plus the following letter, picking up a reference in the third article, which had unforeseen and extraordinary consequences:





















[Hilary 1963]              [Posters]               [Opposing the SCM Mission]

[Unmarried but pregnant]        [Behaviour of the Press]        [Women in the Union]

[Other press coverage]        [Correspondence with Francis Crick]

Trinity 1963 – An Article in the Church of England Newspaper

Soon after his letter in the Church of England Newspaper about the OUHG’s opposition to the SCM mission to the University, the paper invited him to write an article on Why I am not a Christian.  This was published opposite the editorial page on 9 May 1963 and led to voluminous correspondence in the paper for several weeks.  Enlarged images below, followed by the follow-up correspondence; and the text of the original article is here.























































Letters, 10 May 1963: 

Letters, 17 May 1963:

Continue below from column 3 above:



























Letters, 24 May 1963:


























Letters, 31 May 1963:


  NB: These two columns continue below.

































The 2nd and 3rd columns above continue below:
























[Trinity 1963]       [Press coverage – meetings]     [Press coverage – other]