Andre Norton sitting in her Library : Winter Park, Florida in the 1990's
Biography by Maciej Zaleski - Ejgierd
Alice Mary Norton was born on February 17, 1912 in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. She was the second daughter of Adalbert Freely Norton, owner of a rug company, and Bertha Stemm. Being a late child, born seventeen years after her sister, she never developed close relationships with her siblings or contemporaries and was influenced primarily by her parents, especially her mother, who later on did all her proofreading and served as a critic-in-residence.
Much attention was paid in Ms. Norton's family to books, the visible sign of which was the weekly visit to a public library. Even before she could read herself, her mother would read to her and recite poetry as she went about various household chores. Even the good grades at school were rewarded by books, namely by copies of Ruth Plumly Thompson's Oz novels. It was this fondness of her parents that marked her whole life. She started writing at the Collinwood High School in Cleveland, under the tutelage and guidance of Miss Sylvia Cochrane. She became an editor of a literary page in the school's paper, called The Collinwood Spotlight. As such, she had to write many short stories. It was at the school hall, where she wrote her first book - "Ralestone Luck", which was finally published as the second in 1938 (the first one was "The Prince Commands" in 1934). Also in 1934, she legally changed her name to Andre Norton (Andre Alice Norton, to be exact). She was expected to be writing for young boys, and the male name was expected to increase her marketability.
After graduating from the High School, she continued her education at the Flora Stone Mather College of Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve) for a year from the autumn of 1930 to the spring of 1931, intending to become a history teacher. Then, due to the economical depression, she was forced to find work in order to support the household. She took evening courses in journalism and writing that were offered by Cleveland College, the adult division of the same university.
In 1932 she was employed by the Cleveland Library System. Most of her time was spent as an assistant librarian in the children's section of the Nottingham Branch Library in Cleveland. Although she became something of a troubleshooter for the entire system, the lack of a degree prevented her from advancing as her ability might have dictated. She couldn't change jobs, because there weren't many employment opportunities during the depression.
In 1941, for a short period of time she owned and managed a bookstore and lending library called the Mystery House, situated in Mount Ranier, Maryland. Unfortunately it was a failure. At much the same time, from 1940 to 1941, she worked as a special librarian in the cataloguing department of the Library of the Congress, involved in a project related to alien citizenship, which was abruptly terminated by the beginning of the World War II. After Ms. Norton left the Cleveland Library System, she began working as a reader for Martin Greenberg at Gnome Press. After 8 years she left, totally devoting herself to writing.
On March 17, 2005 at 2:23am Andre Norton passed away at her home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Since middle February she had been fighting with a combination of flu and pneumonia and has at last succumbed to a congestive heart failure.
She often said she never wished to be more than a storyteller, and that skill she has mastered to perfection. Writing was her calling and she has not abandoned it till the very end. She was a prolific author and leaves a legacy of over 200 books and short stories.
Her writing, always uplifting and positive in its message, has touched the lives of many people - she has received numerous letters and emails from people who told her how her stories helped them find strength to overcome the obstacles they faced in real life. She will be sorely missed by us all.
She requested before her death that she not have a funeral service, but instead asked to be cremated along with a copy of her first and last novels.
Andre and her friends, Winter Park, Fl ~ 1990s
She asks that memorials be made in her honor to:
St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital (Memorial and Honor Program), 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105
Veterinary Services (c/o the Noah Fund) P.O. Box 10128, Murfreesboro, TN 37129.
For information about Andre's gravesite click here
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