Distinguished Women of Past and Present

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Mary Katherine Goddard


Mary Katherine Goddard, a printer and a publisher, was also in 1775 probably the first American woman postmaster. She was born on June 16, 1738, in either Groton or New London, Connecticut, in the British Colonies in North America and she grew up in New London. After her father died in 1762, Mary moved with her mother to Providence, Rhode Island, to help her brother, William, run a printing office.

In 1765, William moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to open another printing shop, while Mary and her mother remained in Providence to operate the business by themselves. In 1766, they started publishing the Providence Gazette and they issued the West's Almanack. Then, in 1768, they sold the business and joined William in Philadelphia where Mary helped her brother in publishing the Pennsylvania Chronicle.

In 1773, William moved yet again to set up another printing shop in Baltimore, Maryland, while Mary continued operating the business in Pennsylvania before selling it in 1774. She again joined her brother and took over the operations in publishing the Maryland Journal and the Baltimore Advertiser. In May 1775, her name was listed in the paper as editor and publisher. On July 12, 1775, the Journal printed a three-column account of the Battle of Bunker Hill less than a month after it happened. Apparently it was a scoop at the time. In 1777, she printed the Declaration of Independence where all the signers' names were listed for the first time. Then in 1784, following an argument with her brother, Mary Goddard left the printing and publishing business.

In 1775, Mary Goddard had also been appointed postmaster in Baltimore. She remained at this post until she was replaced by another appointee in 1789. Following this, she ran a bookshop for the next twenty years.

Mary Katherine Goddard died in Baltimore, Maryland on August 12, 1816.

Contributed by Danuta Bois, 1999.

1. Her Heritage: A Biographical Encyclopedia of Famous American Women, CD ROM, Pilgrim New Media, Inc., 1994 (http://www.PLGRM.com)
2. The Book of Women's Firsts: Breakthrough Achievements of Almost 1,000 American Women by Phyllis J. Read and Bernard L. Witlieb, Random House, 1992
3. Susan B. Anthony Slept Here. A Guide to American Women's Landmarks by Lynn Sherr and Jurate Kazickas, Random House, 1994

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