Jessica Mitford Biography


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

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. 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).

During the mid-1950’s, she unsheathed her poison pen and launched her career as a muckraker. After she published The American Way of Death (1963), a powerful exposé of the funeral industry, the resulting public outcry forced the industry to restructure itself almost overnight. Her other investigative books included The Trial of Dr. Spock (1969), Kind and Usual Punishment: The American Prison Business (1973), Poison Penmanship: The Gentle Art of Muckraking (1979), and The American Way of Birth (1992).

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...

(The entire section is 414 words.)