I will be forever grateful to have met Joanna Scutts a few years ago in an elevator bank on Fifth Avenue, after speaking at CUNY’s Leon Levy Center for Biography, where THE EXTRA WOMAN was already brewing. I rambled about the publishing process, which sounded slightly dull compared to the lives the various writers in that room were uncovering, many finding ways to rhapsodize about their chosen subject during the Q&A. When Joanna and I spoke afterward, she introduced me to Marjorie Hillis, and soon after I ordered my own pale pink copy of Live Alone and Like It. It was not quite the burnt-orange original Joanna describes in her introduction, but I still delighted in hearing Marjorie’s advice for such burning questions as “Is it permissible for a youngish un-chaperoned woman living alone to wear pajamas when a gentleman calls?”
You’ve met this “youngish un-chaperoned” extra woman: she’s sophisticated, she lives comfortably alone, she pursues her passions unabashedly, and—contrary to society’s suspicions—she really is happy. Despite multiple waves of feminist revolution, today’s single woman is still scorned or pitied. But for a brief, exclamatory period in the late 1930s, she was all the rage. A delicious cocktail of cultural history and literary biography, The Extra Woman transports us to the turbulent and transformative years between suffrage and the sixties, when, thanks to the glamorous grit of one Marjorie Hillis, single women boldly claimed and enjoyed their independence.
With a voice as ebullient as her subject’s, Joanna takes the spinster out of singlehood, painting Marjorie Hillis as the original precursor to Helen Gurley Brown and Hannah Horvath, and all their fellow (real and fictional) live-aloners. The Extra Woman is both a brilliant exposé of women who forged their independent paths before the domestic backlash of the 1950s trapped them behind picket fences, and an illuminating excursion into the joys of fashion, mixology, decorating, and other manifestations of shameless self-love.
Literary critic Scutts unabashedly celebrates the midcentury single working woman using the life and works of Marjorie Hillis. . . . Like her protagonist, Scutts has a voice that is zesty, dashing, and full of verve. . . . Scutts uncovers the life of a little-known feminist hero in this thoroughly enjoyable romp through 20th century American history.” —Publishers Weekly
Before there was a Carrie Bradshaw or a Mary Richards, a Bridget Jones or a Holly Golightly, there was Marjorie Hillis. . . . Scutts’ biography of this Depression-era feminist positions Hillis very much as a woman of her own time, and her thorough scholarship deftly illustrates how Hillis’ iconic views continue to make her a woman for all time.” —Booklist
The fascinating and formidable Marjorie Hillis has at last found her rightful biographer, champion, and exegete in Joanna Scutts. This is a beautifully written, insightful, and wise account of the life and work of an important but heretofore largely unremembered writer, wit, and proto-feminist.” —Rosie Schaap, author of Drinking with Men
Long before Girls, Carrie Bradshaw, and Mary Tyler Moore, Marjorie Hillis inspired women to live more independently as ‘Live-Aloners,’ and she deserves more recognition than she gets. Joanna Scutts’ account of Hillis and the cultural transformations she made possible is as witty, forthright, and elegant as its subject.” —Lauren Elkin, author of Flâneuse
As a ‘Live-Aloner,’ I couldn’t resist Joanna Scutts’ The Extra Woman. Thanks to Scutts’ scholarship, Marjorie Hillis and her self-help books for single women feel as relevant in 2017 as they were in the 1930s.” — Elliott Holt, author of You Are One of Them
I adored The Extra Woman…With confidence and dry wit, Scutts reveals Hillis as a key link between first- and second-wave feminism, and that living alone and liking it is as radical a concept now as it was eighty years ago.” —Sarah Weinman, editor of Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s
Exhilarating in content, magnetic in clarity, vital in its message, The Extra Woman is a much-needed addition to the tapestry that tells the history of the people of our country. I urge anyone who wants to be a well-rounded individual to pick up this book immediately.” —Mira Ptacin, author of Poor Your Soul
Rich in historical detail, Scutts’ book is not just an elegant biography of a neglected protofeminist figure and a vivid exploration of American sociological history; it is also an important homage to a woman’s right to choose how to live her life. A sparklingly intelligent and well-researched cultural history.” —Kirkus Reviews
Scutts convincingly depicts [Hillis] as a smart, witty pioneer who blazed a trail for independent 20th – and 21st – century women, and whose words have never resonated more powerfully than they do today.” —The National Book Review
In The Extra Woman, Joanna Scutts makes it clear that somebody was working those fields long before the ineffable [Helen Gurley Brown] stuck in her spade. . . . Part biography, part social history, The Extra Woman is Ms. Scutts’s eye-opening . . . attempt to rescue Hillis from obscurity and to make the case for her as a proto-feminist. . . . Hillis was surely a fascinating figure, someone way ahead of her time.” —The Wall Street Journal
Join us for the launch on Thursday, November 16th at Astoria Bookshop, and Tuesday, November 28th, at Books Are Magic, not too far away from the Brooklyn neighborhood that launched Hillis into her solitary splendor.