Joanna Scutts


New York, NY

Joanna Scutts

History, feminism, books, art, cocktails


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

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

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.

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?

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

Rosario Candela and the invention of high-rise luxury

When you’ve made it in New York City, how do you make sure the world knows it? There is only so much desirable Manhattan ground to build on, and mansions are a lot of work. The rest of the city is pressing not only uptown but up into the sky, and you’ve spent a fortune not to live in anyone else’s shadow.
Curbed NY Link to Story

It came from the sewers of London: the utterly disgusting (yet fascinating) fatberg

“We walk through life influenced by all sorts of weird stuff,” says “Letter of Recommendation” editor Willy Staley. His column in The New York Times Magazine offers a place to celebrate those obsessions, fascinations and private joys, in a tight 900 words.
Nieman Storyboard Link to Story

"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

The Mysterious Woman Behind J.P. Morgan’s Library

THIS PIECE IS PART OF AN ONGOING SERIES ON THE UNSUNG WOMEN OF HISTORY. By all accounts, not much was said in the 1905 meeting between the 68-year-old, walrus-mustached financier J. Pierpont Morgan and the young woman who would become his personal librarian—a gruff greeting, a quick nod of approval, perhaps a handshake.

A Publishing House of Her Own

As a child, Blanche Wolf wanted more than anything to live a life surrounded by books. When she met Alfred Knopf in 1911, she was attracted most of all to his bookishness. Her dream life was simple, heartbreakingly so: “We decided we would get married and make books and publish them.” How could she have known that the hardest part of that dream was the “we”?
The New Republic Link to Story

The roaring (drunk) 20s: literature's biggest party animals

The life of a writer can be a quiet business, spent hunched over a manuscript in a quiet countryside house. In a contemporary twist, writers usually live God-knows-where in order to teach in a creative writing program. But for much of the 20th century, writers flocked to cities. This was particularly true in the 1910s and 1920s, when modernism was exploding onto the scene.
The Guardian Link to Story

Windham-Campbell prizes: literary awards open up with international gaze

“I’m getting rather overheated reading this,” said the New Yorker’s theatre critic Hilton Als apologetically, mopping his brow with a handkerchief. He was describing the adventures of the European literary theorists Michel Foucault and Roland Barthes, as they lost “their collective minds” in New York’s multiracial downtown gay scene of the 1980s: a scene in which Als himself came of age.
The Guardian Link to Story


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,, 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.



  • Teaching
  • Copy Editing
  • Editing
  • Writing