Mitford died of cancer at the age of 78 on Tuesday (July 23). She was considered one of the premiere investigative journalists of her day, a muckraker in the tradition of Sinclair Lewis and John Dos Passos. Her targets included the Famous Writers School, a Midwest correspondence school, and the U.S. penal system ("Kind and Usual Punishment: The Prison Business"). Mitford's most recent book, "The American Way of Birth" (1992), declares that doctors perform too many C-Sections and de-legitimize midwifery.
Mitford grew up in a wealthy English family. She cultivated her leftist politics early in life, and became an anti-fascist activist. She joins Fresh Air to talk about her relationship with the Communist Party during the McCarthy era, her early book about the death industry, and growing older.