Jessica Mitford was an English author, journalist, civil rights activist and political campaigner, and was one of the Mitford sisters.
Mrs. Mitford was born in Gloucestershire, United Kingdom, on September 11, 1917. The sixth of seven children, she was the daughter of David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale, and his wife Sydney (daughter of politician and publisher Thomas Bowles), and grew up in a series of her father's country houses.
She had little formal education, since her mother did not believe in sending girls to school, but was nevertheless widely read.
Jessica Mitford came to the United States in 1937 with her first husband, Esmond Romilly. They worked at a variety of jobs, including bartending and sales, across the United States before settling in Washington, DC. In 1940, Romilly joined the Canadian Air Force, and was killed in action two years later.
Meanwhile, Mrs. 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. When she resisted to sign a loyalty oath, 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, the university paid her.
Mrs. Mitford published articles in Life, Esquire, and Nation, criticizing publisher Bennett Cerf, television, dieting and health spas, and expensive restaurants.
Jessica Mitford and Robert 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.
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, Mrs. Mitford was subpoenaed by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC).