Jessica Mitford

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Brother: Thomas

Jessica Lucy Freeman-Mitford (September 11, 1917 – July 22, 1996) was an English author, journalist and political campaigner, who was one of the Mitford sisters. She gained American citizenship in later life.



Early life

Mitford, the sixth of seven children, was the daughter of David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale and his wife Sydney (daughter of politician and publisher Thomas Bowles), and grew up in a series of her father's country houses. She had little formal education, since her mother did not believe in sending girls to school, but was nevertheless widely read. Though her sisters Unity and Diana were well-known British supporters of Hitler and her father was described as being "one of nature's fascists," Jessica (always known as "Decca") renounced her privileged background at an early age and became an adherent of communism. She was known as the "red sheep" of the family.[1]

Life with Esmond Romilly

At age 19, Mitford met her second cousin Esmond Romilly, who was recuperating from dysentery caught during a stint with the International Brigades defending Madrid during the Spanish Civil War. Romilly was a nephew (by marriage) of Winston Churchill. The cousins fell in love immediately and decided to elope to Spain, where Romilly picked up work as a reporter for the News Chronicle covering the conflict. After some legal difficulties caused by their relatives' opposition, they married. They moved to London and lived in the East End, then mostly an industrial slum area. Attended by doctor and nurse, Mitford gave birth at home to a daughter, Julia Decca Romilly, on 20 December 1937. The baby died in a measles epidemic the following May. Jessica Mitford rarely spoke of Julia in later life and she is not referred to by name in Mitford's autobiographical novel, Hons and Rebels.[citation needed]

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