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Joanna Scutts

Writer

New York, NY

Joanna Scutts

History, feminism, books, art, cocktails

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Britain’s Boarding School Problem

When socially privileged children are separated from their families at a tender age, some develop what psychotherapists have called “Boarding School Syndrome”: “a defensive and protective encapsulation of the self,” in which they learn to hide emotion, fake maturity, and assert dominance over anyone weaker. They develop loyalty to their institutional tribe and suspicion of outsiders; they become bullies devoted to winning above all. If these traits sound familiar, it may be because the men who sent Britain careening into the catastrophe of Brexit—David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage—are all products of elite boarding schools, notorious symbols of social and economic inequality.
The New Republic Link to Story
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The State of the Advice Column in 2018

The advice column ought to be a relic. It belongs to a time when local newspapers were a community’s main window on the world: before widespread therapy, and before Google was around to autocomplete our anxieties. Yet the advice column in the online era remains wildly popular, evolving in form and audience: from traditional Q&As to live chats and podcasts, there are now innumerable ways to share our dilemmas with the world or eavesdrop on other peoples’.
Medium Link to Story
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The Evolution of the Advice Column

The pleasure of the advice column is at odds with its premise. It makes no practical sense to write to a newspaper for advice on an urgent problem, given the days and weeks that will elapse between the questioner sending a letter and the columnist publishing a response. But the draw of the advice column is not really about the questioner getting a timely answer; it’s about readers’ voyeurism and moral theorizing.
Medium Link to Story
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'Ninety-nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret' review: Craig Brown's portrait of a royal is daring, entertaining

NINETY-NINE GLIMPSES OF PRINCESS MARGARET, by Craig Brown. Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 423 pp., $28. Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth II’s beautiful, reckless, perennially heartbroken younger sister, is everywhere and nowhere in British history in the second half of the 20th century. Running his finger down the index of books by artists, writers and comedians, her irreverent biographer Craig Brown spots her “sandwiched for eternity” between the illustrious — Marie Antoinette — and the pedestrian — the scruffy English seaside town of Margate, where she has a namesake avenue.
Newsday Link to Story
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Young women’s fantasies inspired by literature and pop culture

Joanna Scutts is a literary critic and cultural historian, and the author of “The Extra Woman: How Marjorie Hillis Led a Generation of Women to Live Alone and Like It.”. In “Dead Girls,” her sharp-eyed book of essays about literature, pop culture and the fantasies they weave for and about young women, Alice Bolin is never more precise than when putting her finger on her self-doubt.
The Washington Post Link to Story
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Single, 40 and childless: Why is that still a problem?

On its surface, Glynnis MacNicol’s memoir seems simple, even mundane: a straight, single woman turns 40 and faces the challenge of defining herself and her life in the absence of marriage and children. As a successful journalist living in New York, MacNicol is aware of the privilege that has allowed her to find fulfillment in work and friendship rather than conventional domesticity.
The Washington Post Link to Story
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The Very True Story Behind A Very English Scandal

A Very English Scandal, the new three-part series from Queer As Folk and Doctor Who writer Russell T. Davies and director Stephen Frears, is a wild tale of politics, ambition, sex, mental illness, attempted murder, and virulent homophobia. It’s also pretty much a true story.
Vulture Link to Story
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Well-Behaved Women Make History Too

The million-dollar success of the Rebel Girls enterprise lies in a combination of stylish design, savvy marketing, and the yawning gap in the market for real women’s stories. It’s a gap that conventional publishers have rushed in to fill, but when we cherry-pick the past for icons of female rebellion, are we really serving women, or history?
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The Fight Women Won

The first militant act of the Women’s Social and Political Union was a dry-mouthed spit, “a kind of pout,” from 25-year-old Christabel Pankhurst into the face of a police officer, the only physical assault she could manage while her arms and legs were restrained. Her action, carried out in Manchester in 1905, got her labeled a “spitfire,” which pleased her, and arrested, which pleased her even more.
The New Republic Link to Story
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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
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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
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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….

About

Joanna Scutts

I'm a historian, critic, and curator based in Astoria, New York (not far from the Hellgate Bridge, above.) My first book, THE EXTRA WOMAN: HOW MARJORIE HILLIS LED A GENERATION OF WOMEN TO LIVE ALONE AND LIKE IT, was published in November 2017 by Liveright/W.W. Norton. It tells the story of a forgotten 1930s lifestyle guru and the world of self-help and women's independence in mid-century America.
Most recently I was the inaugural Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Women's History at the New-York Historical Society, where I helped open the first dedicated Center for Women's History in an American museum.
My work has appeared in the Washington Post, New Republic, Guardian US, TIME.com, New Yorker online, In These Times, Daily Beast, the Nation, and the Wall Street Journal. 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, MacKenzie Wolf.

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joannascutts.com

Skills

  • Teaching
  • Copy Editing
  • Editing
  • Writing