Log In

Jessica Mitford Edit Profile

activist , journalist , writer

Jessica Mitford was an English author, journalist, civil rights activist and political campaigner, and was one of the Mitford sisters.

Background

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.

Education

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

Career

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.

Achievements

  • In a series of investigative articles, Jessica 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.

Politics

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.

Membership

  • Mitford Sisters

Interests

  • Other 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, Mrs. Mitford was subpoenaed by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC).

father:
David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale

mother:
Sydney Mitford

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

Husband:
Esmond Romilly

Husband:
Robert Treuhaft