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Jessica Mitford ("Red sheep" of the family)

She was one of the nation’s foremost investigative journalists. The New York Times conceded that “Mitford’s pen is mightier than the sword,” and Time magazine dubbed her “Queen of the Muckrakers” - a title that she cherished.

Background

  • Born into one of Britain’s most renowned families, Mitford forsook the traditional perquisites of upper-class life in order to fight fascism and government corruption.

  • Education

    • She had little formal education, since her mother did not believe in sending girls to school, but was nevertheless widely read.

    Career

    • Meanwhile, Mitford herself was the subject of an attempt at censorship when she was hired to teach at San Jose State University as a distinguished professor in 1973. The trouble began when the university ordered her to sign a loyalty oath, tried to fingerprint her, and deleted the word “muckraking” from her course descriptions. When she resisted these measures, the administration fired her and canceled her classes. However, she ignored both actions and continued teaching her classes without pay. Eventually she signed the oath under duress, but forced the fingerprint issue into court. Finally, an embarrassed university paid her; after the fall semester ended, a court ruled that the fingerprint requirement was not enforceable.

    Major achievements

    • In a series of investigative articles, Mitford single-handedly exposed a variety of society’s cherished institutions, including Bennett

      Cerf and other “faculty” members at the Famous Writers’ School, Elizabeth Arden’s Maine Chance spa, National Broadcasting Company (NBC)

      censorship, a restaurant in New York City, and personnel procedures at California’s San Jose State University. Censors were among her favorite targets. In September, 1965, she published an article titled “Don’t Call It Syphilis” in McCall’s magazine. The hard-hitting exposé publicly embarrassed NBC for cancelling a two-part segment on the dangers of syphilis.

    Works

    • The American Way of Death
    • The Trial of Dr. Spock
    • Kind and Usual Punishment: The Prison Business
    • Poison Penmanship: The Gentle Art of Muckraking

    Politics

    Mitford and Treuhaft became active members of the Communist Party. In 1953, at the height of McCarthyism and the 'Red Scare', they were summoned to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Both refused to testify about their participation in radical groups.

    Party affiliation: Communist Party

    Membership

    • Mitford Sisters

    Personality

    Interests

    Investigative journalism

    Connections

    • During the Spanish Civil War, she ran away to Loyalist Spain and married Esmond Romilly, a communist sympathizer who was later killed in World War II. In 1943, after moving to the United States, she met her second husband, Robert Treuhaft, a labor lawyer. They settled in Oakland, California. During the McCarthy era, Mitford was subpoenaed by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC).
    • father: David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale
    • mother: Sydney
    • Sister: Diana Mitford
    • Sister: Unity Mitford
    • Sister: Pamela Mitford
    • Sister: Nancy Mitford
    • Sister: Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire
    • brother: Thomas Mitford
    • Son: Nicholas
    • Son: Benjamin
    • 1st spouse: Esmond Romilly
    • 2nd spouse: Robert Treuhaft
    Jessica Mitford
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    Born September 11, 1917
    Died July 22, 1996
    (aged 78)
    Nationality
    Ethnicity:
    • 1961 - 1996
      investigative journalism
    • 1973 - 1973
      distinguished professor, San Jose State University

    Contributor  

    Tatyana Gabrusionok last changed 14/05/2012 view changes
    • Membership
      • Mitford Sisters
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