Celebrating MBN, Ithaca, Sept. 28-29, 2012

I heard a rumor recently that Mary Beth Norton will retire from Cornell University this year*, and I was delighted to hear that she’ll be honored at a conference organized by a few of her recent students.  (Apparently, some special people got e-mailed invitations already; I guess mine must have fallen out of one of the fiberoptic Pony Express intertubes in Nebraska, or something!  Thanks to reader Perpetua for bringing it to my attention.)

On Friday, September 28th, participants will gather at the A.D. White House for a series of sessions inspired by distinct aspects of Professor Norton’s scholarship and teaching. That evening, attendees will continue the celebration at a catered reception at the Johnson Art Museum. The conference will conclude with a morning roundtable and brunch on Saturday, September 29th. If you are interested in contributing a brief paper to one of the sessions, please email Molly at mwarsh@tamu.edu or Susanah at ssromney AT gmail DOT com.

The conference is being organized by two of Professor Norton’s former students (and now historians), Susanah Shaw Romney, PhD ’00, and Molly Warsh, BA’99. The event has received generous support from Cornell’s History Department; Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Society for the Humanities; and numerous other on-campus and off-campus entities.

You can go to the conference blog and sign up for updates by entering your e-mail address.  I hope that Mary Beth will get a good audience for this event–she has always been among the most enthusiastic of women’s historians, and a very generous mentor and colleague to junior scholars like me.  I remember that she answered a snailmail letter I had written her as a newly dissertating graduate student, back in the early 1990s when we wrote letters on paper and sent them through the U.S. Postal Service.  She didn’t have anything to gain from helping me out–but that’s the kind of thing she has done for the community of early American women’s historians.  I also remember running into her at the Maine Historical Society in the late 1990s when we were both researching the Northern New England frontier, and being struck by her enthusiasm for archival research (an enthusiasm I share, of course!) 

Spread the word!  Thanks to Susanah and Molly for organizing this.  It should be quite the party.

*UDATE, 1:17 MDT:  MBN e-mailed me to report that “Rumors of my retirement are greatly exaggerated! I have made no decision about when to retire.”  But, I think it’s a fine idea to celebrate her career now in any case.

7 thoughts on “Celebrating MBN, Ithaca, Sept. 28-29, 2012

  1. Go Archives!!! I would hope they would also convene a special roller derby “friendly” match between the Sufferjets and the Blue Stockings to mark the occasion. Ditto on how Norton has always been a spirited public citizen of the discipline and the profession.


  2. When I applied to and was accepted by the Cornell Ph.D. program many years ago–in a field completely different from Norton’s–she telephoned me to see if I had questions about the program. She was very helpful to someone not really even at the stage of “starting out.” I was impressed that one of the only (or THE only?) female tenured faculty members in the department contacted me. I went to a different school, which was a good place for me, but I remember that a few things she told me about that school were spot on.


  3. FLASH!!. . . THIS JUST IN. . .

    MBN e-mails to report that “Rumors of my retirement are greatly exaggerated! I have made no decision about when to retire.”

    As they say on the wires–DEVELOPING. . .


  4. Mary Beth has been a generous supporter of women’s historians period. I think it is difficult to overestimate how significant the support of more senior women like MBN has been to all us who followed. And like all good historians, she has continued to be curious about the past, excited by research and writing.


  5. Mary Beth Norton was also very helpful to me when I contacted her in the late 1990s to ask about graduate programs in women’s history. She didn’t know me at all, but she took the time to write me a long, helpful email about grad school in general and about Cornell in particular.

    Thanks in part to her advice (but not because of anything she told me about Cornell!) I wound up at the University of Iowa working with Linda Kerber, who IS retiring at the end of this academic year, and, ironically, will be feted at a gathering in Iowa City the weekend after Norton’s conference next fall. So great to see brilliant scholars like these two celebrated this way.


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