Women’s History Month : Mary Katherine Goddard, Renaissance Woman of The Revolution

by / / History

Who was Mary Katherine Goddard? The first female Postmaster, at times during the Revolutionary War Baltimore’s lone printer, dry goods and stationary proprietor and the only woman to ever publish an official copy of the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence was an act of treason. The men that signed the parchment Declaration of Independence, now in the National Archives, were literally pledging their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. They knew that their support of an act of independence would come back to haunt them if the British defeated George Washington and the Continental Army. If you take a closer look at a broadside printed in January 1777 by order of the Continental Congress, you’ll notice another name committed to the cause. Not a signer, but a printer. Not a man, but a woman. Meet Mary Katherine Goddard, printer and postmaster to the Second Continental Congress in Baltimore.”

Miss Goddard’s printed broadside was “how most Americans in the Revolutionary War period found out who actually signed the Declaration of Independence.”

Goddard’s contributions to the new nation did not protect her from political manipulation. In 1789, Postmaster General Samuel Osgood ordered Goddard to resign from her post. She was replaced by John White, Osgood’s political ally. Because Baltimore was to become the new regional headquarters, Osgood asserted that the postmaster would have to make frequent, long-distance travels, which he stated would be unmanageable for a woman. When, in fact, the growing port city of Baltimore presented a lucrative source of income and opportunity for political favors.”

She would petition both George Washington and Congress with the backing of her community; yet she was never reinstated to the Postmaster position which she held the previous 14 years during both war and peace. Her brother returned and resumed control of the Newspaper.  Her reaction was to reorganize herself then get to the job of running the many other concerns she had held together during the eight long years of war.

She died in Baltimore on August 12, 1816, still beloved by the community she served so well. Buried in Old Saint Pauls Cemetery there is currently no online photo documentation of her resting place.

As a noted editor of the truth in troubled times, one can hope the nine surviving copies of the Declaration of Independence printed by Goddard that are known to be in existence are the testimonial to her professionalism and patriotism. The known copies can be found at:

  • Connecticut State Library (Hartford, CT)
  • Library of Congress (Washington, D.C.)
  • Massachusetts Archives (Dorchester, MA)
  • Maryland Hall of Records (Annapolis, MD)
  • Evergreen Library, Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD)
  • New York Public Library (New York, NY)
  • Library Company of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Rhode Island State Archives (Providence, RI)