by Carl Jensen
As the "Queen of the Muckrackers," Jessica Mitford stands alone. Is she the last of her kind?|
by Jeff Elliott and Laura McCreery
A comprehensive look at the amazing life and career of Jessica Mitford.
by Laura McCreery
Psychologist Anthea Fursland provides insight into Mitford's saga.
"Only a single book by Jessica Mitford is currently in print. That fact is so odd that it bears repeating: you probably won't be able to find a book by Mitford in your local bookstore. Not Daughters and Rebels, her celebrated autobiography of her early years, not American Way of Death, probably the most famous exposé of our times."
That was the original intro to our October, 1995 profile of Jessica Mitford. Little has changed, except Daughters and Rebels is back in print (under its original title, Hons and Rebels) and her final book, American Way of Death Revisited is available. The only significant change in the last decade is the publication of a remarkable collection of her letters, which will be the topic of an upcoming Monitor feature. If you're interested in Jessica Mitford, rush to pick up a copy of "Decca."
But even today, no one yet has written a biography of her. It is a life full of drama, pathos, courage, and indomitable will, and scarcely a word has been written about it.
What we did find were scraps of information in other books about other people. All these accounts were published in England and hard to find. Other sources included oral histories and unpublished scholarly works. Still other sources were hours of taped interviews with Mitford and others, some interviewed for the first time.
As the project grew, the lines between journalism and scholarship blurred. With so much original or hard-to-find material included, a future Mitford biographer will want to know citations.
A related problem was the presentation. Early on, we decided to present as much of the story as possible like an oral history. In one segment, for example, we present Buddy Green and Bob Treuhaft discussing the same event. Treuhaft's interview occurred five years ago; the interview with Green occurred last week. Does it matter that the interviews were made five years apart? Don't we have a responsibilty to the reader to let them know that the speakers are not in the same room at the same time?
We could do all this with text, but it would make the story more difficult to read, and hamper the immediacy. Laura McCreery suggested the solution we settled upon; after any section with primary material, you'll find a stylized asterisk. The source of the quotation can be found be selecting the
This is far from the complete story of Jessica Mitford. We also planned sections on the HUAC investigations, the confrontations at San Jose State, and more. Alas, we ran out of time, and feared the reader might run out of patience.
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