Women Writing Women’s Lives: Carla Kaplan, “The Muckracking Life of Jessica Mitford”
Where: Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Ave.
212-817-7000 Price: Free
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In the Gilded Age, muckraking encouraged the belief that citizens, armed with facts, could bring corrupt politicians and corporations to justice. After a period of immense popularity, however, muckraking lost status, partly for appealing too easily to feelings. Who could have predicted that a British aristocrat would revive this quintessentially American form? Dubbed “Queen of the Muckrakers” by Time magazine (to her great delight), Jessica Mitford broke with muckraking’s sentimentality to restore its civic power, changing American laws from funerals to prisons. She joked that her muckraking contained “something to offend everyone” but, in fact, her targets were always those in power, always those who exploited others more vulnerable.