Today’s post is the final installment of my three-part interview with Mary Beth Norton, whose career will be celebrated at Liberty’s Sons and Daughters, a conference in her honor in Ithaca, New York September 28 and 29. (If you’ve missed part I and part II, get yourself caught up and then read on.) Here, we talk about her decision to to write a trilogy of books on early American women’s and gender history. In chronological order of the history they cover, they are Founding Mothers and Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society (1996), Separated by their Sex: Women in Public and Private in the Colonial Atlantic World (2011), and Liberty’s Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800 (1980). We also talk about her experiences publishing with both trade and university presses, both of which present their own advantages and disadvantages.
Historiann: You write in your introduction to Separated by their Sex that this is the third volume of your trilogy focusing on colonial and Revolutionary-era women’s history, connecting Founding Mothers and Fathers to Liberty’s Daughters. When and how did you conceive of writing a trilogy? Would you recommend this career strategy to younger historians?
MBN: I knew I had to write a trilogy when I was three or four years into the research for what became Founding Mothers & Fathers, for I realized then that the project I had conceived as one book had to be divided into two. And even later I decided that Salem witchcraft deserved its own book, an offshoot of the trilogy, because otherwise I feared it would take over the second volume. As it happened, both the Salem research and the research for Separated by their Sex went in directions that I had not anticipated, and so In the Devil’s Snare became more a stand-alone (but related) volume. Continue Reading »