September 11

There are 2 entries for this date: Jessica Mitford Daniel Sloss

    Jessica Mitford

    Jessica Mitford

    On this date in 1917, “Queen of the Muckrakers” Jessica Lucy Freeman-Mitford, nicknamed Decca, was born to a markedly eccentric, religious, aristocratic family in England. Her parents were anti-Semites and notorious members of the British Union of Fascists. Two of her sisters became high-profile fascists, but by age 14 Jessica was a pacifist. Like her sister Nancy, who became a novelist (Love in a Cold Climate), Jessica also embraced a left-wing socialism. She eloped in 1937 at age 19 to marry journalist Esmond Romilly, Winston Churchill’s nephew.

    They honeymooned in Spain while he wrote about his experiences in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. Romilly joined the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II and was killed at age 23 in 1941 during a raid over Nazi Germany. Mitford then married radical lawyer Robert Treuhaft in 1943 and was active in civil rights campaigns. She led the “White Women’s Delegation” to Mississippi seeking to save a black defendant from the death penalty. She and her husband, who were members of the American Communist Party until 1958, refused to give evidence when summoned before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

    She wrote the irreverent best-seller The American Way of Death (1963) after her husband became aware of outrageous funeral costs borne by working-class families. The book enraged funeral directors and the clergy and brought government regulation to the industry. It also spurred demand for cremation. She also wrote an autobiography, Daughters and Rebels (1960), The Trial of Dr. Spock (1970), A Fine Old Conflict (1977), Kind and Unusual Punishment: The Prison Business (1973), Poison Penmanship: The Making of a Muckraker (1979) and An American Way of Birth, (1992).

    Mitford died in 1996 at age 78 of cancer. After a $475 cremation, a memorial service was held in San Francisco, where famous speakers lauded her mordant sense of humor and lifelong unorthodoxy.

    PHOTO: Mitford in 1937.

    “Openness about the more shadowy corners of experience was one of the many things, along with psychiatry and religion, that Decca simply didn’t ‘go in for.’ ”

    —"Black Sheep," book review at slate.com of "Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford," ed. Peter Sussman (2006)

    Daniel Sloss

    Daniel Sloss

    On this date in 1990, comedian Daniel Sloss was born in London, the eldest of four children of Ph.D. chemist Lesley — an international consultant on carbon emissions and climate change — and Martyn Sloss. His father works in I.T. The family moved to Scotland, where its roots are, when he was 4 and underwent the tragic loss of his sister Josie to cerebral palsy when she was 7.

    Sloss got his comedic start at age 16 writing jokes for satirist Frankie Boyle. His desire to pursue comedy won out over studying history at the University of Dundee. He debuted onstage in 2008 at the Edinburgh Fringe — the world’s largest arts festival — and in 2009 became the youngest comic to perform a solo season at London’s Soho Theatre.

    Numerous TV and solo stand-up shows followed, including his U.S. debut on “Conan” in 2013. As of this writing, Sloss has performed in over 50 countries and his streamed shows have been seen in 190 nations. The COVID pandemic shut down his 11th solo show “Daniel Sloss: HUBRIS,” which premiered in New York and was rescheduled to 2021-22.

    Sloss and fiancée Kara Mitchell announced their engagement in August 2021 but said the wedding wouldn’t take place until 2023 in hopes that the pandemic would be over and friends from everywhere could attend. “I want them to experience a traditional Scottish wedding with kilts and a ceilidh. I don’t want ­restrictions,” Sloss said.

    His book “Everyone You Hate Is Going to Die: And Other Comforting Thoughts on Family, Friends, Sex, Love, and More Things That Ruin Your Life” was published in October 2021.

    Some Sloss humor: “I think one of the hardest things about being a parent is Christmas morning, when you’ve spent all this time, money and effort making this day so magical. And then you look down at your child with those beautiful blue eyes that you hope resemble yours. And they spend the whole day thanking Santa. You know that disappointment that parents feel in that moment — that’s exactly how doctors feel whenever you thank God.” (Melbourne International Comedy Festival, March 2016)

    Sloss says his riffs on religion aren’t meant to offend but sometimes they do. “I did an atheist joke in Indianapolis. I was kind of warned against it. They said, ‘Maybe don’t do that joke here.’ I said, ‘Nah, it’ll be fine.’ It was not fine.” One man showed Sloss his gun and about 40 people in the crowd of 100 walked out. (Canton Repository, Feb. 12, 2015)

    “I’m an atheist, but was raised in a partially religious family. So I’ve always been allowed to make fun of religion, knowing full well that no one would ever take it personally. They’re just jokes. But when you fight faith with logic, people tend to get angry because they don’t have the logic to back up their faith and they feel personally attacked by it.”

    —Interview, Bristol24/7 magazine (Nov. 8, 2016)
    Compiled by Bill Dunn; photo by Troy Edige

Freedom From Religion Foundation