Mary Beth Norton (born 1943) is an American historian, specializing in American colonial history and well known for her work on women's history and the Salem witch trials. She is the Mary Donlon Alger Professor Emeritus of American History at the Department of History at Cornell University. Norton served as president of the American Historical Association in 2018. She is a recipient of the Ambassador Book Award in American Studies for In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692.
Norton was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan and her Master of Arts (1965) and Ph.D. (1969) from Harvard University, under Bernard Bailyn. Her doctoral dissertation, The British-Americans, was published by Little, Brown and Company and won the Allan Nevins Prize from the Society of American Historians in 1970.
Her book Founding Mothers and Fathers (1996) was a finalist for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize. She was co-editor, To Toil the Livelong Day (1987), Women of America (1979), Major Problems in American Women's History (4th ed., 2007), and In the Devil's Snare (2002) about the Salem witch trials. She is also noted as one of the authors of the two-volume A People & A Nation, a popular American history textbook, currently in its ninth edition.
Norton has served on the National Council on the Humanities, as president of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, and as vice president for research of the American Historical Association. She also served as the general editor of the AHA Guide to Historical Literature in 1995. Norton was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1999. She was also elected Speaker of the third Cornell University Senate. Norton has won grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Norton was elected as president-elect of the American Historical Association in summer 2016. She served as president-elect during calendar 2017 and as president in 2018.
Norton appears in a variety of history programs and documentaries about colonial times, including Salem Witch Trials in the Discovery Channel's Unsolved History series in 2003 and in Witch Hunt on the History Channel in 2004. She was interviewed in 2008 for the PBS Series History Detectives, on Season 6, Episode 7, "Front Street Blockhouse.". She appeared in Salem Witch Hunt: Examine the Evidence in 2011 for the Essex National Heritage Commission and the National Park Service She made an appearance in the very first episode of the American version of Who Do You Think You Are?, helping Sarah Jessica Parker trace her Massachusetts ancestry, which involved the Salem witch trials. She also appeared, with historian Margo Burns, in Season 8 (2016) of the TLC genealogy show, speaking with actor Scott Foley about his ancestor, Samuel Wardwell, who was executed for witchcraft during the trials in 1692.
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