Jessica Mitford (1917–1996)

Anglo-American memoirist, journalist, and social activist. Born into one of England’s most famous aristocratic families, “Decca” Mitford had little formal education but read widely; she would later describe her privileged upbringing in the memoir Daughters and Rebels (1960). She emigrated to the United States in 1939, eventually marrying a prominent civil rights lawyer. During the 1960s she established herself as an investigative reporter with a talent for pungent social criticism. Her study of the American funeral industry, The American Way of Death (1963, 1998), was followed by The Trial of Dr. Spock (1969), Kind and Unusual Punishment: The Prison Business (1973), and The American Way of Birth (1992). Her memoir A Fine Old Conflict (1977) recounts her youthful enthusiasm for and subsequent disillusionment with the Communist Party; The Making of a Muckraker (1979) describes her career as a journalist. See also