Be a Communist, be a stamp collector, or a Ladies’ Aid worker, if you must, but for heaven’s sake be something!

Marjorie Hillis, Live Alone and Like It (1936)
Extra Woman_hi-res

The Extra Woman is the story of the glamorous, independent single woman from her 1930s heyday through the dawn of the 1960s women’s liberation movement. It begins with Marjorie Hillis, who gave her a new name—the “Live-Aloner”—and a healthy shot of confidence. But it’s a bigger story: the story of feminism between the waves, of pathbreaking writers, artists, and politicians, who along with thousands of unsung women battled for the right to live as they pleased and pursue what made them happy, convention be damned, on their own terms.  

When she became the Queen of the Live-Aloners, Marjorie Hillis was a single, fortyish  minister’s daughter from Brooklyn who had spent more than twenty years on the staff of Vogue in New York. In 1936, she published a witty and quietly radical self-help book for the maligned sisterhood of “extra women” under the blunt title Live Alone and Like It. Her book was aimed at women like herself, who claimed the right to be happy and fulfilled even if they didn’t have the husband and children they’d been raised to expect.

It was an instant bestseller and made its author a household name as she taught her audience to make their own choices, mix their own cocktails, and cast off other people’s measures of life’s meaning and worth. In a series of seven books written over the course of thirty years, Marjorie Hillis lit up the path to glamorous independence for midcentury women of all ages and stages of life.

Read more about Marjorie at Time Magazine and Bustle.

Read excerpts from The Extra Woman at The Paris Review and Literary Hub.


THE EXTRA WOMAN named one of the best books of 2018 by the Financial Times.


Listen to interviews with Kris Boyd of Think (KERA FM); with the Lost Ladies of Lit podcast; with Publishers Weekly Radio; and with Courtney Balestier of WMFA Podcast.

Read interviews with Kelly Faircloth at Jezebel and with Alanna Schubach at Brick Underground


“In 1936, a Vogue editor named Marjorie Hillis published Live Alone and Like It, a jubilant guide for the single working woman, which offered advice on how to find an apartment, mix a cocktail, and manage a love affair. As Scutts writes in this study of Hillis and her era, the idea that unmarried women could be happy and fulfilled challenged ‘the very basis of American women’s citizenship.’ Hillis’s subsequent books defended the ideal of female independence, even through the ‘retrenchment into domesticity’ of the postwar era. As Scutts argues, it’s an ideal that still requires defending today: ‘Exercising the right to live your life as you choose is still a political act, and a brave act.’
—Briefly Noted, New Yorker

“Scutts should feel proud that she did what she set out to do: return Hillis to her rightful place in the pantheon of women who made it possible for the rest of us to enjoy that freedom.” —Ellen McCarthy, Washington Post

“Scutts’s book, written with an enticing no-nonsense clarity that is reminiscent of Hillis’s original, acts as both a biography of Hillis and paints a fascinating portrait of the cultural context surrounding her work. ”—Lucy Scholes, The National 

“Historian Joanna Scutts puts Hillis into the context of her time, in an engrossing book that’s part biography of Hillis and part cultural history of women in 20th century America.”—Constance Grady, Vox

“Smart and enjoyable.” —Christian Science Monitor

[Marjorie Hillis] died in 1971, but as Scutts reminds us, her audacious celebration of female independence can still amuse and inspire us today. She and Scutts’s wonderful book should be toasted with well-mixed cocktails.”—The Irish Times

“Though her advice about bed jackets and bubble baths seems quaint today, [Hillis’s] celebration of solitude, independence and integrity is, as Scutts reminds us, worth reviving.”— Newsday

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