Jessica Mitford: Poison Penmanship

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

For the anthology We Shall Fight Until We Win, UK-based writers, illustrators and comic creators were chosen by BHP Comics and 404 Ink to tell the stories of some of the most inspiring but most overlooked women of the last century.

I chose to the stories of Jessica Mitford, one of the most influential investigative journalists of 20th Century America and one of the most scandalous British aristocrats of the same period. Mitford ran away from her family to join the Spanish Civil War, working as a reporter, while at the same time her sisters Diana and Unity were organising for Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists and social- ising with Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels. Mitford rebelled against a British upper-class that denied women education and autonomy. Moving to America after the Spanish Civil War, she became a civil rights activist, filing reports on the Freedom Riders and Martin Luther King for publications such as Esquire and The Atlantic. Her 1963 book, The American Way of Death, exposed the predatory selling practices of the American funeral industry.

In 1969 Bernadette Devlin McAliskey became the youngest female MP at the age of 21, winning the Northern Irish Mid-Ulster seat on a socialist ‘Unity’ ticket. A passionate activist for civil rights in the then gerrymandered and oppressive police-state of Northern Ireland, she co-founded the People’s Democracy organisation while a student at Queens University.

In 1972 Devlin participated in the anti-internment march which became known as ‘Bloody Sunday’, after British soldiers shot 28 marchers, killing 14. She travelled to London to attend Parliament as an MP and attest to what she had witnessed, and to dispute the government’s version of events, the next day. I have chosen to focus my one-page story on that day, which became infamous for Devlin slapping the then-Home Secretary when she was denied the chance to speak as an eye-witness to events.

Devlin is a hugely important and (like Mitford) often overlooked figure in post-partition Irish politics. In a time when Brexit casts a new light on the complexities of Northern Irish history and politics, her voice is a much needed alternative perspective on a complex province.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWe Shall Fight Until We Win
Subtitle of host publicationA Century of Pioneering Political Women: the Graphic Anthology
EditorsSha Nazir, Heather McDaid
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherBHP Press
Number of pages4
ISBN (Print)1910775169
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Centenary of women’s suffrage
  • 20th Century History


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  • Bernadette Devin: Fidel Castro in a mini-skirt

    Doran, F., Nazir, S. (ed.) & McDaid, H. (ed.), 14 Jun 2018, We Shall Fight Until We Win: A Century of Pioneering Political Women: the Graphic Anthology. Nazir, S. & McDaid, H. (eds.). United Kingdom: BHP Press, 1 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

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