Herstory

Mary Katharine Goddard – The Female Signer of the Declaration of Independence

It’s time to honor our founding mothers along with our founding fathers.

Mary Katharine Goddard is not the first name that comes to mind when thinking about the Declaration of Independence; however, she printed a version of the Declaration of Independence, for the first time, with the names of the signers on it.  In a brave move, she too signed her full name as the publisher to show her support for the document, considered an act of treason at the time.

A trailblazer from early in her life, Mary Katharine Goddard was born on July 16, 1738, into a family of printers and postmasters. She learned the ropes of both trades by observing her father and brothers, and then in 1775, Goddard became the postmistress of the Baltimore, MD office, making her the first official female federal employee. Goddard also became the publisher of the Maryland Journal, where she quickly earned a reputation for being the staunch advocate for the revolutionary movement. 

As a statement against British brutality, she reprinted Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and endorsed a women-led homespun movement against British textiles. And more infamously, in the winter of 1777, after Washington defeated the redcoats at two major battles, the Continental Congress turned to Mary to print the Declaration of Independence after the document had been hidden for over a year.

Sadly, her brother pushed her out to the family paper business in 1784, and in 1789, she lost her job as postmistress of Baltimore. A letter signed by two hundred Baltimore residents and personal notes of appeal to President George Washington and the US Senate went unanswered. Mary Goddard spent the last 20 years of her life running a small book store in Baltimore. While Mary Goddard was known for printing the day’s news, she left very few personal mementos, writings, or pictures.

In 1998 Goddard received well-deserved recognition when she was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame.

Hot for more?

READ: Mary Katharine Goddard Takes a Stance

WATCH: The little-known story of the only woman who “signed” the Declaration of Independence

Featured photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

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