The Extra Woman

Joannna Scutts


Marjorie Hillis is hardly a household name today, but in the 1930s everyone knew her as an editor at Vogue. Her private life was just that—private. Then in 1936 she wrote a best-selling book called Live Alone and Like It: A Guide for the Extra Woman. Not until Sex and the Single Girl was there such a sensation. Ms Hillis put forth the idea that the single life was something to be enjoyed, not endured. With tips on decorating and entertaining on a budget, she showed millions of American women how to make the most of the single life. Overnight the career woman entered popular culture, from books to movies.

I believe a novel I read recently, Mrs Boxfish Takes a Walk was inspired in part by Marjorie Hillis, showing that her influence lives on well past her death. If she was anything like her fictional counterpart, it is easy to see why she was such a wonderful role model.

Enjoying life as a single woman takes stamina and courage. In an age where everyone supposes you are on the hunt for a man, it takes something special to swim against the tide and declare yourself free.

And then, of course, she married. Some people felt betrayed, but Hillis declared she had nothing against marriage. Her attitude was to enjoy life in whatever circumstance you find yourself, single, married or widowed.

A fascinating look at life as a single woman in the 1930s.


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