Monday, July 8, 2013

Mary Katherine Goddard, Forgotten Patriot

Okay, so I missed the Fourth of July by a few days, but I’m still going to celebrate by dropping some knowledge about one the American Revolution’s overlooked heroes. Her name was Mary Katherine Goddard; she was a printer, newspaper publisher, and likely first women postmaster in Colonial America. That’s neat, but what Mary’s most famous for is being first to print the Declaration of Independence with the names of the signers.

Mary was born June 16, 1738, in New London, Connecticut. When she was 24 years-old her father died, and Mary, her mother, and brother, William, re-located to Providence, Rhode Island. The family opened a print shop and published the city’s first newspaper, The Providence Gazette. Later, William moved to Philadelphia; there he managed The Pennsylvania Chronicle and Universal Advertiser. Mary and her mother came a few years after. Mary assumed control of the business after William left to found a revolutionary newspaper in Baltimore, The Maryland Journal, and Baltimore Advertiser. Selling her claim she joined her brother, again taking responsibility for the periodicals as he gathered support for his Constitutional Post, a mail service between New York and Philadelphia.

On May 10, 1775, Mary declared her standing by putting “Published by M.K. Goddard” on the Journal’s header. This was also the year she became postmaster, the first woman delegated the job. She proved not just more unbiased and professional than rabble rousing William, but her duty as postmaster gave Mary the scoop on some hot stories-the Battles of Lexington and Concord, for example.

Her most noteworthy contribution occurred January 18, 1777; Mary became the first to print the Declaration of Independence with the names of its participants. Though it seems inconsequential, remember signing the document was treasonous. By publishing those names, Mary guaranteed they stood by their pledge. 

In January 1784, William forced Mary to quit after a nasty squabble. She continued as postmaster until 1789, when she was terminated. According to Postmaster General Samuel Osgood, the appointment required “more traveling . . . than a woman could undertake.” Though a petition demanding Mary’s restoration, signed by over 200 citizens, was submitted to Osgood, he was unyielding. For the remainder of her career, Mary sold books, stationery, and dry goods. She died August 12, 1816, a much-loved community member.

The site where Mary printed the Declaration is located at 125 East Baltimore Street in Baltimore, Maryland. Sadly, it’s a now a Rite-Aid, but you can still walk by and check-out where Mary Katherine Goddard, overlooked American patriot, made history.

For more information visit:

The National Postal Museum

National Women’s History Museum

To see Mary’s petition to Postmaster General Samuel Osgood visit:

George Washington University

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