Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Jessica Mitford

Jessica Mitford is known as the most politically active of the Mitford sisters who didn't align themselves with the Third Reich, gaining herself the nickname the "red sheep" because of her Communist affiliations. Jessica eloped with her cousin Esmond Romilly at the age of nineteen. They ran away to Spain where Esmond covered the war there as a reporter. At one point their family sent a British destroyer to retrieve them home, because when you marry Churchill's nephew, well, the House of Lords might just send the might of the British Navy after you. This over the top gesture did nothing to dissuade them and eventually they immigrated to the United States. At the outset of WWII Esmond enlisted and died a short time later in a bombing raid. 

Jessica remained in the United States, concentrating on her political activism and social justice. She eventually became quite a journalist and muckraker, with her book, The American Way of Death, becoming a classic in it's own right for exposing the funeral industry in America. Jessica is perhaps my favorite of the Mitford sisters because with her book Hons and Rebels, she doesn't hide behind satire and the illusion of "fiction" to make fun of her family. But you don't have to take my word for it, how about the opinion of JK Rowling?

"My most influential writer, without a doubt, is Jessica Mitford. When my great-aunt gave me Hons and Rebels when I was 14, she instantly became my heroine. She ran away from home to fight in the Spanish Civil War, taking with her a camera that she had charged to her father's account. I wished I'd had the nerve to do something like that. I love the way she never outgrew some of her adolescent traits, remaining true to her politics – she was a self-taught socialist – throughout her life."


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