Women in History
There is none that can talk about the history of US postal services without mentioning the contribution of Mary Katherine Goddard. She is a woman of impeccable character and an exceptional track record as a printer, newspaper publisher, and a postmaster.
Life & work of Mary Katherine Goddard
Mary Katherine was born was born to the Goddard family in New London, Connecticut, on June 16, 1738. She lived most of her life in Baltimore, Maryland, from 1774 down to 1816 when she died at the age of seventy-eight.
Mary Katherine’s father died in 1762, prompting Mary and her mother to join up with her brother, William Goddard. He owned a printing shop in Providence, R.I. it was here that Mary and her mother started their careers as printers. Mary Katherine was involved in the publishing of the weekly Providence Gazette. This process continued until the end of 1768 when she later teams up with her brother’s printing office located in Philadelphia. It’s in Philadelphia that Mary Katherine published the Pennsylvania Chronicles. Although the publication usually appears in the name of her brother, it was Mary Katherine that manages the shop. It happened to be one of the largest in the entire colonies.
Together Mary Katherine’s professional life as a printer, publisher, and postmaster was bound with her brother, William. After they both worked together in Providence and Rhode Island, William started a new business in Baltimore in May 1773. It became Baltimore’s first newspaper, the Maryland Journal. Following the closure of the shop in Philadelphia in February 1774, Mary Katherine moved permanently to Baltimore. She then became the sole manager of the new plant and newspaper.
On May 10, 1175, the Maryland Journal officially recognized what has become a norm when that year’s issue read “Published by M.K Goddard.” Katherine proved to be a reliable, impersonal newspaper editor and was the only printer Baltimore had during the Revolution. January 1777 witnessed the publication of the first version of the Declaration of Independence to include all of the Congressional signatures—all from the printing press of Mary Katherine Goddard.
Mary successfully managed the day-to-day operations in Baltimore. In 1775, she was named Baltimore’s postmaster because of her abilities and excellent track record. She was the first woman to have held such a post in the colonies. Also, the last to hold such a position after the declaration of independence. Mary Katherine continued as Baltimore’s postmaster for fourteen years until she was discharged against her will in October 1789. The excuse was that someone was needed to manage the southern department of the postal system. She was discharged because the authorities felt the responsibility involved much traveling which is not for a woman.
Over two hundred businessmen in Baltimore endorsed Mary and supported her petition to the Postmaster General to retain her position. This shows how much respect she had from others. Mary remained in Baltimore where she continued her operation between1809-1810. Then her bookshop started operating as a partner in the printing business.
Mary Katherine passed on in Baltimore at the age of seventy-eight, was buried in Saint Paul’s Parish graveyard. Mary received lots of tributes both from her brother and from letters written by eminent people like Thomas Jefferson and Ebenezer Hazard.
Linda Rawson is the CEO, and Founder of DynaGrace Enterprises, (http://DynaGrace.com) which is a Women-Owned, 8(a) Minority, Small Business. She is also the author of The Minority and Women-Owned Small Business Guide to Government Contracts.