Born Mabel Ethelreid Normand in Staten Island, New York, she grew up in extreme poverty. Her father was sporadically employed as a carpenter at Sailors' Snug Harbor home for elderly seamen.
Before she entered films in 1909, Normand worked as an artist's model, which included posing for postcards illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson, creator of the Gibson Girl image.
Her first films portrayed her as a bathing beauty, but Normand quickly demonstrated a flair for comedy and became a star of Sennett's short films. She appeared regularly with Charles Chaplin and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and wrote, directed, and starred in some of Chaplin's early films. She has been credited with being the first person to throw a cream pie on film and is often cited as silent cinema's most prominent comedienne. She directed films and made full-
In 1914 she starred with Chaplin and Marie Dressler in Tillie's Punctured Romance. Normand developed into a major film star. As her relationship with Sennett came to an end, she signed a contract with Samuel Goldwyn in 1918 and opened her own film studio in Culver City.
She was signed by Hal Roach Studios in 1926 after discussions with director/producer F. Richard Jones, who had directed her at Keystone. At Roach she made the film Raggedy Rose plus four others which were released with publicity support from the Hollywood community.
Mabel appeared in 227 films from 1910 to 1927.
Mabel Normand has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to Motion Pictures, at 6821 Hollywood Boulevard.