Whitfield’s career in British entertainment spanned six decades. In 1992, she was cast in Absolutely Fabulous as the mother of Jennifer Saunders’ Edina Monsoon. The sitcom ran for a total of five seasons, then returned for a series of three 20th anniversary specials in 2011 and 2012. Whitfield last reprised her role in 2016’s feature-length film Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.
Prior to AbFab, Whitfield co-starred as Rose Garvey in the British comedy Beggar My Neighbour, which ran from 1966-1968. She then starred opposite Terry Scott in both Happy Ever After (1974–1978) and Terry and June (1979–1987). Her most recent TV credits include episodes of Doctor Who, EastEnders and You, Me and the Apocalypse. Her work also extended to radio, where she voiced Miss Marple in a series of Agatha Christie adaptations for BBC Radio 4.
Whitfield was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1985. In 2017, at the age of 92, she was granted damehood for her services to drama and entertainment.