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Joanna Scutts

Writer

New York, NY

Joanna Scutts

History, feminism, books, art, cocktails

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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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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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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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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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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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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