|Twenty-seven linear feet of correspondence, printed material, reports, notes, interviews,
manuscripts, legal documents, and other materials represent Jessica Mitford's work
three investigatory books, The American Way of Death
(1963), The Trial of Dr. Spock (1969), and Kind and Usual Punishment: The Prison Business (1973). The material
is arranged in three series; one built around each work. Generally speaking, the series
follow Mitford's original arrangement scheme. All three series have the same basic
encompassing Research, Works, Promoting the Book, and Response to the Book. However,
are significant differences in the amount of material in each subseries for the three
For example, promotional material and response to the book for The American Way of Death is extensive, while these sections are
small to nonexistent in the other two series. The Trial of Dr. Spock and Kind and Usual Punishment series have small sections of personal
materials, while The American Way of Death series has none. The
research subseries of The American Way of Death and Kind and Usual Punishment are subdivided into Research by Chapter,
Research by Topic, and General Research. The Trial of Dr. Spock contains
only topical entries. No attempt has been made to separate materials by format in
any of the
series. Correspondence, for instance, is scattered throughout the three series. Although
Mitford has written several books and innumerable articles, this body of materials
represents exclusively those materials relating to her three investigatory works and
articles pertaining thereto. Those materials designated as Personal fall within the
of Mitford's activities as an author of the said books.
|Because of the preponderance of research materials in this collection, it possesses
strong informational value beyond its literary significance in relation to Mitford
author. Of the three series, that representing Kind and Usual Punishment, a scathing indictment of the American
penal system, provides the greatest potential for research. Not only is it the largest
series, but also it contains a wide variety of materials and topics which would be
to researchers interested in criminal justice and corrections. The American Way of Death exposes the avarice and unscrupled
practices of the American funeral industry. Materials in this series provide a candid
revealing perspective on American death rituals and how the funeral industry has
institutionalized and exaggerated these rituals. In The Trial of Dr. Spock, Mitford documents the 1970 conspiracy trial
of Dr. Benjamin Spock in order to illustrate the American legal system's intolerance
civil disobedience. This is a small series perhaps of greatest value to those interested
Spock himself and/or Vietnam era jurisprudence. Kind and Usual Punishment (17 linear feet) is the largest series,
followed by The American Way of Death (6.5 linear feet) and,
finally, The Trial of Dr. Spock (3.5 linear feet).
|Series I. The American Way of Death, 1954-1973
|Jessica Mitford is best known for her first book, The American Way of Death, which exposes the abuses of the American
funeral industry. Mitford's attorney husband, Robert Treuhaft, stimulated her interest
the funeral industry while defending some of its alleged victims in court. Treuhaft
active as an officer of the East Bay Memorial Association (later known as the Bay
Funeral Society), a funeral cooperative. His involvement in this organization accounts
the presence of its records from 1954 to 1962 in the Mitford papers. In 1961, Mitford
two other authors published an article, "St. Peter Don't You Call
Me," lambasting the funeral industry for its avarice and lack of scruples. This
article received such a favorable public response that Mitford resolved to write an
book on the subject.
|This series spans two decades, from the records of the East Bay Memorial Association
1954 to fan letters received by Mitford in 1973. It includes four subseries: Research,
Works, Promoting the Book, and Response to the Book. The Research subseries begins
Research by Chapter. Chapters 2, 12, and 18 are not represented. Certain chapter titles
rather oblique: Chapter 4, "The Artifact," deals
primarily with parlours and caskets; Chapter 8, "The Menance of P. O. [Please Omit]," discusses the florist's role in
funerals; Chapter 9, "God's Little Million Dollar Acre," concerns
cemeteries; and Chapter 10, "Shroudland Revisited,"
explores Forest Lawn, a southern California memorial park. Under Research by Topic
records of the East Bay Memorial Association (EBMA). The article, "Can You Afford to Die?," by Roul Touley makes reference to the
Mitford and her activties with the EBMA. Also present are the results of a mail survey
memorial societies conducted by Mitford. Under General Research is extensive correspondence
with individuals from the funeral industry, the clergy, and other segments of society.
of these correspondents are referred to in the book. J. Freeman is a pseudonym used
Treuhafts in many letters. Mitford's articles appear in the Works section. "The Undertaker's Racket," of 1963 presages her book of that same
year. The manuscript of The American Way of Death is
present in multiple forms, from initial drafts to galley proofs. Records regarding
book's promotion include pre-release publicity, advertisements and articles, a list
persons to receive copies of the book, and material on a national tour sponsored by
and Schuster in the fall of 1963. Critical response to the book is heavily documented
through reviews from the American and British press. Correspondence from this period
includes exchanges between Mitford and Judith Viorst on President Kennedy's funeral.
from her first article, Mitford received letters from individuals seeking a sympathetic
hearing for their experiences. Publication of the book increased this flow of letters
she initially categorized as "interesting" and "boring." In the spring of 1964 she discontinued this
designation, filing all such letters as "fan letters."
|Series II. The Trial of Dr. Spock, 1962-1970
|Legal documents, correspondence, printed materials, notes, interviews, typescripts
other materials represent Jessica Mitford's second investigatory work, The Trial of Dr. Spock, William Sloane Coffin, Michael Ferber, Mitchell
Goodman, and Marcus Raskin. The book analyzes the 1969 trial in which the U.S.
government tried the five aforementioned defendants on conspiracy charges. As activists
critical of America's involvement in the Vietnam War, the defendants publicly denounced
the policies of the Selective Service Administration and encouraged draft evasion.
activities elicited an indictment on charges of conspiring to subvert federal draft
laws, although the five defendants had never actually met together prior to their
indictments. The ensuing trial resulted in the defendants being found guilty with
exception of Marcus Raskin. A federal appeals court later reversed the decision. Of
defendants, Dr. Benjamin Spock stands out as the most prominent figure. A renowned
pediatrician, he has published a number of books on child rearing. It is primarily
to Spock's reputation that the trial garnered so much publicity in the press. In her
book, Mitford presents the trial as a travesty and condemns the American government
using conspiracy laws to deprive citizens of their civil rights.
|Because Mitford's files for The Trial of Dr. Spock were
acquired in a largely disorganized state, it was necessary to impose an order on this
series of her papers, which follows the same organization as the other two. The series
includes four subseries: Research, Works, Response to the Book, and Personal. The
research subseries is by far the most extensive of the four, comprising some 2 linear
feet of records. Included are materials concerning civil rights and antiwar
demonstrations, and draft evasion and the draft policies of the Selective Service
Administration. The subseries also contains information pertaining to conspiracy trials
of other civil rights and antiwar activists. Bobby Seale and the Chicago Conspiracy
Trial are prominent within this category. Conspiracy as a legal concept is represented
by a file containing several articles on the subject. The largest body of material
the first subseries, however, describes the Spock trial itself. Legal briefs, articles,
and a transcript of the trial proceedings are included, along with information
pertaining to the defense, prosecution, jury, and verdict appeal. The defense
documentation contains biographical information on the defendants, as well as
information about the American Civil Liberties Union, which provided attorneys for
of the defendants. Of interest in Spock's files is correspondence between Spock and
White House concerning the Vietnam conflict. This includes photocopies of five letters
from President Lyndon Johnson and one letter from Vice President Hubert Humphrey.
Interviews predominate the materials filed under the prosecution and the jury.
|The bulk of the materials in the second subseries, Works, consists of drafts for the
various sections of the book. Four emended drafts of the text are included. Response
the Book, the third subseries, is a brief file containing the information generated
response to the book's publication. Of note here is correspondence between Dr. Spock
MacDonalds publishers in which Spock expresses his opinion of Mitford's book.
|Personal, the final subseries, contains correspondence and photographs which originated
while Mitford was writing her book, but have no direct bearing on the book itself.
Correspondence between Mitford and her husband, Robert Treuhaft, appear separately
within the correspondence category, the majority being from Mitford to Treuhaft. Also
present is a letter from Spock to Mitford concerning draft resistance.
|Series III. Kind and Usual Punishment, 1963-1973
|This series of Jessica Mitford's papers, pertaining to her book Kind and Usual Punishment: The Prison Business, is comprised of
five subseries: Research, Works, Promotion of the Book, Response to the Book, and
Personal. By far the bulk of the series is comprised of research materials, including
correspondence, notes, printed materials, interviews, legal documents, financial
documents, and reports. The first section of the research subseries is arranged
according to chapter. No folders exist for chapters 1 and 15. Chapter 8, "Clockwork Orange," addresses behavior modification programs
employed as a method of rehabilitating convicts. Chapter 9, "Cheaper than Chimpanzees," discusses the use of prisoners as
guinea pigs in testing experimental drugs.
|The second section of the research subseries is arranged by topic. In conducting her
research, Mitford compiled rather large files on various organizations, many of which
provided her with background information and, in the case of the Guggenheim Foundation,
funding and a research assistant, Susan Sussman. Other notable organizations represented
include the American Civil Liberties Union, American Corrections Association, and
Committee for the Study of Incarceration. Materials relating to the Prison Law Project
and its attorney, Fay Stender, appear throughout this section. Among other things,
Stender filed a legal suit against the Inmate Welfare Fund of California on grounds
the state was misappropriating inmate monies. Correspondence between Johnny Cash Inc.
and Mitford, concerning Mr. Cash's charitable contributions to the Inmate Welfare
is also present. The California prison system is heavily documented in Mitford's
research files, with the Washington prison system a distant second. Noteworthy in
Folsom Prison files are prisoner short stories and poetry. San Quentin and Soledad
also well represented. Mitford was personally involved in supporting an inmate strike
Washington's McNeil Island Prison in 1971. An injunction and restraining order filed
Mitford against the penitentiary are present in the Washington files. Individuals
prominently represented include prison researchers James Robison and Joe Kagan, prison
reform advocates Ysabel Rennie and Louis Wolfson, and prisoner activist Roney Nunes.
George Jackson, an inmate of California's Soledad Prison and author of the book Soledad Brother, was a well-known black revolutionary of the
early 1970's. A bizarre series of events resulted in his death at the hands of San
Quentin prison guards in 1971. A Mitford interview of Jackson and correspondence between
the two just prior to his death are present in the collection. Also noteworthy are
materials pertaining to the book Eye for an Eye, written by
Indiana inmates. Of special interest in the last section of research materials, General
Research, is a collection of prison system newsletters and files containing Mitford's
correspondence with prisoners (1971-73). One inmate in particular, James R. Williamson,
is anonymously quoted throughout Kind and Usual Punishment.
Among Mitford's interviews is an audio cassette recording of a call-in radio interview
hosted by former convict Dr. Korn and former warden Mr. Prescott.
|As for the second subseries, Works, two of Mitford's four articles on prisons, "Experiments Behind Bars" and "Kind and Usual Punishment in California," are represented in the
collection. Notes, fragments, drafts, and galley proofs comprise the remainder of
subseries. The seven drafts of the text are in various stages of completion. The
remaining three subseries, Promotion of the Book, Response to the Book, and Personal,
are extremely small in relation to the rest of the series, comprising a mere five