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Joanna Scutts

Writer

New York, NY

Joanna Scutts

History, feminism, books, art, cocktails

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The Art of Unruliness

The names of most of the characters in Saidiya Hartman’s book Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments are not familiar. They aren’t supposed to be. History rarely pays attention to the stories of “wayward” girls born into poverty, still less to their desires and dreams. Hartman’s subjects are girls and women who were part of the mass migration of African Americans to the north after Emancipation, who tried any way they could to resist being corralled into the narrow space allotted to them and called freedom.
The New Republic Link to Story
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Literary Novels Are Using Romance to Talk About Politics

In the middle of Sally Rooney’s new novel Normal People, one of the protagonists, a young Irish college student named Connell, finds himself “in a state of strange emotional agitation” over a moment of romantic drama in Jane Austen’s Emma. His knee-jerk response is self-deprecating: “He’s amused at himself, getting wrapped up in the drama of novels like that.
Medium Link to Story
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‘Mr. President, How Long Must We Wait?’ Review: Suffragettes Storming the Ballot

Tina Cassidy offers a double portrait of Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic president whose opposition to suffrage gave way to half-hearted support, and Alice Paul, the single-minded young Quaker who brought to America the radical tactics she learned from the British suffragettes.
Wall Street Journal Link to Story
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How Marjorie Hillis Changed The Way The World Thought About Single Women

In the summer of 1936, a short, snappy, and stealthily radical self-help book for single women became a surprise bestseller. In the depths of the Great Depression, Live Alone and Like It: A Guide for the Extra Woman celebrated women’s pleasure and glorified their independence.
Bustle Link to Story
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The sorority in the skyscraper

In 1921, the New York chapter of the Panhellenic Conference, the national network of college sororities, turned its attention to an urgent local problem: the lack of affordable housing for graduates moving to the city in search of jobs. The chapter’s 3,000 members voted to take direct action to alleviate the situation by creating a unique shared living experiment, a sorority “residence and clubhouse” in the heart of the city.
Curbed NY Link to Story
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How to Survive Howard Hughes’s Hollywood

Karina Longworth’s long-running podcast about classic movies, You Must Remember This, sets out to tell the “secret, and/or forgotten history” of Hollywood in its much-mythologized golden age. Her new book, Seduction, offers an insistent, clear-eyed reminder of the fact that history does not get buried or forgotten by accident, but by design, in order to burnish and elevate the reputations of powerful men, and to cut women down to size.
The New Republic Link to Story
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Love/Hate: Costume Dramas

Growing up in England in the 1980s and ’90s instilled in me a Pavlovian reaction to the scene of a horse-drawn carriage crunching up the gravel driveway of a stately home, scored to a rousing string orchestra. At the same time, I wanted to resist the lure of the bonnets and the ballrooms. For a bookish child, costume drama was like that well-read friend with one too many Jane Austen tote bags — it was faintly embarrassing, skipping over the nuance and the difficulty of the literature and going straight for the commercial jugular.
Medium Link to Story
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The Day Europe Fell Silent

In Cape Town, the firing of a pair of guns from the city’s Signal Hill has marked the hour of noon every day except Sunday for more than 200 years. In the spring of 1918, the city’s mayor, Sir Harry Hands, turned that timekeeping tradition into a memorial ritual. His eldest son, Reginald, had died of gas poisoning on the Western Front.
The Atlantic Link to Story
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The Death of FilmStruck Is a Dark Day in the History of Movies

As Warner gears up to face down Disney with its direct-to-consumer streaming service, launching next year, it’s clear that the company has no interest in catering to passionate fans of its back catalog, only in chasing the largest possible audience for its new releases. What’s not clear is why it has to be a zero-sum game, and why efforts at preservation and education have to be eliminated in order to chase the biggest possible audience and present them with a library far broader than it is deep.
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Orlando Is the Virginia Woolf Novel We Need Right Now

Woolf points out over and over again that what makes men men is their power, and what makes women women is their lack of it: financially, culturally, and physically.
Vulture Link to Story
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At home with our favorite characters

Susan Harlan’s Decorating a Room of One’s Own: Conversations on Interior Design with Miss Havisham, Jane Eyre, Victor Frankenstein, Elizabeth Bennet, Ishmael and Other Literary Notables is a singular delight for book nerds, design nerds, and anyone who, like me, happens to be both. The book lovingly spoofs interior design trends and celebrity profiles, illuminating the decorating choices and challenges faced by a host of well-known and obscure literary characters.
Curbed National Link to Story
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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

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