Joanna Scutts


New York, NY

Joanna Scutts

History, feminism, books, art, cocktails


Wallis Simpson Was No Bold Forerunner

Throughout her life, where Wallis lived and traveled, what she did and who with, was dictated entirely by her man, or men, of the moment. No wonder she was furious most of the time.
The New Republic Link to Story

History—and a Glimmer of Hope—in a Whiskey Glass

JUST AFTER FIVE O’CLOCK in the morning on April 18, 1906, what came to be known as the San Francisco earthquake trembled down the coast from southern Oregon to Los Angeles and inland as far as Nevada. “Rumors of great disaster from an earthquake in San Francisco, but know nothing of real facts,” President Roosevelt wrote anxiously to the Governor of California, eager for some solid ground to stand upon.
Wall Street Journal Link to Story

Chasing revelation on a long-distance run through a natural landscape

This four-mile race, with its entry fee, timing chips, bib numbers, medals and tightly managed course, is far removed from the solitary, unencumbered, mostly barefoot running that Cregan-Reid celebrates: a plastic bottle of Gatorade to his handful of water gulped from a mountain stream.
The Washington Post Link to Story

The Society Girl Who Became a Martyr for Women’s Suffrage

This piece is part of an ongoing series on the unsung women of history. Read more here. When she died at the age of 30, in 1916, Inez Milholland was a celebrity whose fame was one part movie star Mary Pickford and one part anarchist Emma Goldman. Though her activism was almost overshadowed by her beauty and her time as a society girl, she was most famous as the leader of the huge 1913 suffrage parade in Washington D.C.

Not your average tale of a single woman in the city

Imagine the plot of a romantic comedy: An English writer who has given up on love meets a man who asks her to move halfway across the world for him. That’s the prologue to “The Lonely City,” and you might expect (or dread) the ensuing story of a woman learning to love her single state, until she’s saved by a new relationship. Thankfully, Olivia Laing’s unusual book — part memoir, part biography, part cultural criticism — is less a predictable rom-com than a wonderfully melancholy meditation on modern art, urban space and the complexity of being alone.
The Washington Post Link to Story

The Writer Who Taught American Women How to Live Alone

This piece is part of an ongoing series on the unsung women of history. Is it possible for a woman to be single and happy? Even after multiple waves of feminist revolution and backlash, the answer to that question still comes with caveats: Yes, if she’s And it depends what you mean by happy….

Gentlemen For Rent

Ted Peckham, a foppish Midwestern arriviste in his early twenties, spotted this opening in the market soon after he arrived in New York. In 1935, he founded the Guide Escort Service—essentially, a way for women to rent out men.
The New Yorker Link to Story

Fascist Sympathies: On Dorothea Brande

In the mid-1930s, slumped deep in economic depression and faced with ever-worsening news from Europe, Americans turned to self-help with a sharp new thirst. The decade, bookended by the Crash and the War, was a period of seeking, searching and struggling, as is clear from the titles turned bromides like How to Win Friends and Influence People and Life Begins at Forty that still pepper our vocabulary.
The Nation Link to Story

A Brief, Unfunny History of Bad Moms

The idea that mothers needed to be shamed and tamed can be traced back to Sigmund Freud. What makes someone a bad mother? If you ask the guys who made The Hangover—and really, why wouldn’t you? it’s doing shots, falling off bar stools, taking down the bossy PTA president and going out in public with your kid’s spaghetti lunch dripping down your blouse.

The Woman Who Worked to Save 19th-Century Victims of Sex Trafficking

At the end of the 19th century, journalist and reformer Victoria Earle Matthews sounded the alarm about what amounted to a system of sexual slavery then thriving in post-emancipation America. So-called “employment agents” operating throughout the South were targeting poor, young black women and luring them to northern cities with the promise of work, only to deliver them to urban brothels and red-light districts.

The Manhattan Project Physicist Who Fought for Equal Rights for Women

THIS PIECE IS PART OF AN ONGOING SERIES ON THE UNSUNG WOMEN OF HISTORY. From an early age, nuclear physicist Chien-Shiung Wu had to travel in order to learn: first 50 miles, then 150—and eventually, to the other side of the world.

"Genius" and the Masculine Mania of Publishing

In A. Scott Berg’s book, and in the new film, the worn-out trope of the male literary genius gets one more day in the sun.
The New Republic Link to Story


Joanna Scutts

Welcome! I'm a cultural historian and literary critic based in Astoria, New York (not far from the Hellgate Bridge, pictured above.) My first book, THE EXTRA WOMAN, will be published in November 2017 by Liveright/W.W. Norton. It tells the forgotten story of 1930s single-woman guru Marjorie Hillis, and through her, explores the world of self-help and feminine independence in mid-century America.
Currently I'm the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in Women's History at the New-York Historical Society, where I am working to open the first dedicated women's history center in an American museum.
My writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian US,, The New Yorker online, In These Times, Poets & Writers and The Wall Street Journal, among many other venues. I hold a Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University and have taught literature and writing at Columbia, Barnard College, and NYU's Gallatin School.
Agent: Kate Johnson, Wolf Literary Services, LLC.



  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Copy Editing
  • Teaching