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Jessica Mitford (Jessica Lucy Mitford) Biography

(1917–1996), (Jessica Lucy Mitford), Hons and Rebels, Daughters and Rebels, The American Way of Death

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: McTeague to Nancy [Freeman] Mitford Biography

Anglo-American memoirist, social critic, and journalist, born in Gloucester, the daughter of Lord and Lady Redesdale. Her sisters were Nancy Mitford, Unity, well-known as a Nazi sympathizer, and Diana, who married Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists. Jessica was always closer to the left of the political spectrum. Her first husband, Esmond Romilly, was killed during the Battle of Britain in 1941. She became an American citizen in 1944, and settled in California with her second husband and family in 1947. Her successful first book, Hons and Rebels (1960; US title Daughters and Rebels), is a lively chronicle of her early years at the secluded family estate of Swinbrook, and her first marriage; ‘Hons’ refers to the ‘Society of Hons’, a fantasy world invented by the Mitford sisters. Her other books include The American Way of Death (1963), a devastating attack on the funeral business in the USA; The Trial of Dr. Spock (1969), about the conspiracy charges against the famous child psychologist, and other anti-Vietnam War activists; Kind and Usual Punishment: The American Prison Business (1973); The Making of a Muckraker (1979; US title Poison Penmanship: The Gentle Art of Muckraking), a collection of journalistic articles which includes her interview in prison with George Jackson, an African-American political activist killed shortly afterwards by the prison authorities; and The American Way of Birth (1992).

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