Born Florida Pier MacChesney, 24 September 1883, Orange Park, Florida; died 6 March 1979, Exeter, England
Daughter of Robert and Anna Pier MacChesney; married Scott J. Scott-Maxwell, 1910 (divorced 1929); children: four
In her writing and in her various careers, Florida Scott-Maxwell's life was defined by her curiosity, her allegiance to women's issues, and her devotion to writing. Named for the state of Florida where she was born, Scott-Maxwell grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she attended public school until the age of fifteen when she moved to New York City.
By age sixteen, she had enrolled in a drama school, which launched her brief career as an actress at the Edwin Mayo Theater Company. In her twenties, she began a second career writing short stories that were published in Harper's and Century magazines. In due course, she became the first woman hired by the New York Evening Sun, where she wrote a weekly column. In 1910 she married Scott Maxwell-Scott; the couple moved to Ballieston, England, near Glasgow, Scotland. Because so few details on her life are available, the names, ages, and gender of their four children are at this time unknown.
Dividing her time between marriage and career, she worked for women's suffrage and wrote a feminist play, The Flash Point (1914). After divorcing Scott-Maxwell in 1929, Florida, now forty-six, moved to London, where she supported her family writing columns, short stories, reviews, and the play Many Women, which was produced in 1932 at the Arts Theater.
Meanwhile, she became interested in Jungian psychology, trained as an analyst under Carl Jung, and practiced throughout the 1930s in clinics in both Scotland and England. In 1939 she published Toward Relationships, which examines the difficulties women face maintaining a sense of individuality while fulfilling their socially assigned roles.
Toward Relationships takes a Jungian approach to feminist themes such as woman as "other," and the importance of feminine, or nurturing, qualities in a world that values achievement and progress—themes current in today's gender debates. After World War II, she began writing plays again. I Said to Myself (1946) implemented an experimental narrative approach that used several actors to represent various personality traits of one central character.
Women and Sometimes Men, her second Jungian-feminist tract, elaborated on themes introduced in Toward Relationships. While many of Scott-Maxwell's publications and dramas received negative criticism, her most famous and provocative book, The Measure of My Days (1968), has been widely anthologized and highly acclaimed. Looking at once back over her life while examining her continued search for self-understanding, this self-critical yet life-affirming journal examines the passions and problems of aging.
Reflecting on old age, adult children and grandchildren, the nature of love and work, and the significance of owning the self comprises a process that makes her "fierce with reality." In a powerful commitment to living in the present, she proclaims: "At my age I care to my roots about the quality of women, and I care because I know how important her quality is."
The Kinsmen Knew How to Die (with S. Batcharsky, 1931).
Allison, K. A. Florida Scott-Maxwell: Biography of a Woman/Writer (dissertation, 1990). Cahill, S., Writing Women's Lives: An Anthology of Autobiographical Narratives by Twentieth Century American Women Writers (1994). Ireland, N. O., Index to Women of the World from Ancient to Modern Times: A Supplement (1988). Moffat, M. J., and C. Painter, Revelations: Diaries of Women (1974). Rose, P., The Norton Book of Women's Lives (1993).
Biography Index 8 (1971), 10 (1977). Encyclopedia of British Women Writers.
—MIRIAM KALMAN HARRIS, PH.D.