Mary Katherine Goddard (1738-1816)
MSA SC 3520-2809
Katherine Goddard embodied the revolutionary spirit of her time in
everything she pursued--from running a newspaper to a running a
post office. She handled male-dominated business
pursuits of printer, newspaper editor, and postmaster with ease. Her newspaper, the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser,
was the only newspaper published in Baltimore during the Revolution and
was a reliable source of news. Goddard also served as the
female postmaster in Baltimore, a postition she held throughout the
war. As a woman very much in the public eye, she broke
traditional gender constraints to establish herself as a prominent
entrepreneur in Baltimore.
Katherine Goddard was born on June 16, 1738, in New London, Connecticut
to Dr. Giles Goddard and Sarah Updike Goddard. Her father was a
respected physician and postmaster, and her mother was well-educated in
both Latin and French.1 Although the Goddard's
had four children, only two lived to adulthood, Mary Katherine and
William, who was born on October 20, 1740. In 1762, after Giles
Goddard's death, Sarah and Mary Katherine followed William to
Providence, Rhode Island., where they helped him establish the Providence Gazette and Country Journal, the first successful and continuous newspaper in Providence.2 William left Rhode Island in 1765, and publication of the Gazette
temporarily stopped as well. In 1766, however, publication
resumed under the name "Sarah Goddard and Company." 3 Presumably, Sarah and Mary Katherine Goddard were now newspaper publishers. In
1768, Sarah and Mary Katherine uprooted themselves again, selling
the Providence Gazette and relocating to Philadelphia to join William and his new venture as printer of the Pennsylvania Chronicle.
Goddard did not have the most satisfactory business
relationships; in 1772 (after the death of his mother, Sarah, in
1770) he left the Pennsylvania Chronicle and moved again, this time to Baltimore, Maryland. He started a new publication, the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, which
appeared for the first time in 1773. Mary Katherine joined him in
Baltimore in 1774, after she "wound up their affairs" with the Pennsylvaia Chronicle.4
Mary Katherine soon
assumed full responsiblity of the paper as her brother's attention
turned toward establishing the colonial postal system, and she cemented the
fact by printing her name on the colophone on the May 10, 1775 paper.
It read: "Baltimore: Published by M.K. Goddard, at the
Printing-Office in Market-Street, next Door above Dr. John
Stevenson's." 5 With annual subscriptions set at the
price of ten shillings, the printer guaranteed the quality of the
paper, also stating, "all Manner of printing work is performed with
Care, Fidelity, and Expectation...Notice, in a neat and correct
The Maryland Journal
printed local news and advertisements, including the current prices of
goods in Baltimore (wheat, for example, was 6 shillings and 6 pence per bushel
in 1773) and rewards for the return of runaway slaves and convicts.7 Mary Katherine's editorial decisions reflected the time
in which she lived; she printed revolutionary and wartime pieces.
On Wednesday, April 19, 1775, she
published a letter to the editor from "Britannicus," which argued, "The
British parliament claims a right to tax and bind the Americans in all
cases whatsoever, when in reality, a British parliament has no more
right to tax an American in anything than they have the right to tax
the people in Japan; for by this means you are robbed of the
democratical [sic] part of the consitution, the very essence of English
liberty." 8 The next week, on Wednesday, April 26,
1775, Mary Katherine printed a speech given by the Lord Mayor, John
Wilkes, Esq., who said: "If we can tax the Americans without their
consent, they have... nothing which they can call their own..." 9 And on July 10, 1776, the Maryland Journal
published the newly agreed upon Declaration of Independence, under the
title, "The Thirteen United States of America Have Declared
Independency." 10 Early the next year, on January 18, 1777, Mary Katherine Goddard made
history by being the first in the United States to print a copy of the Declaration with all signatures.
Despite paper and supply shortages, she kept the Journal
running throughout the war. Mary Katherine Goddard was a staunch
Patriot in the conflict with Great Britain and also firmly believed in
the freedom of the press. She defended this belief
in 1777, when she published two anonymous contributions to the Journal
that had a "tory tone." 11 That tone angered many
Baltimore residents, including the Whig club, which was organized " for
the protection of the citizens from Tory influences." 12 When the Whig club demanded to know the identity of the author,
Mary Katherine refused to tell and referred them to her brother who had
given the letters to her to print.13
In order to avoid banishment from the newly formed country,
William had to write
a memorial to Maryland Governor Thomas Johnson regarding the nature of
the letters (the author of which was later revealed to be Samuel
Chase). Mary Katherine provided a list of character references
The relationship between William and Mary
Katherine at the printing press became strained. Although the
specific reason for their quarrel is unkown, in January, 1784,
William's name was added to the
colophone, and Mary Katherine's was removed. 15 She was effectively fired from the position of publisher.
Mary Katherine had another altercation with her brother in 1785,
when they published competing almanacs. William referred to his
sister as "a certain hypocritical character," who had the "dirty and
mean purpose of Fraud and Deception." 16 William
eventually moved back north to New England, and on May 26, 1786, he married Abigail
Angell. It seems that Mary Katherine did not attend the wedding
or send any congratulations, since she received a letter from John
Carter (printer of the Providence Gazette), giving an account of the wedding and encouraging a reconciliation between them.17
Katherine Goddard's business ventures went beyond printing and
publishing. She ran a dry goods and stationary business, and, in
1775, she was appointed the Baltimore postmaster. Although
was generally acknowledged that she did her work well and on time, she
was forced to give up her position in 1789. The official reason
was that the postal system was being consolidated and the work of the
postmaster would now require more travel than could be expected of a
woman at the time. Over two hundred Baltimore businessmen
petitioned for her to stay.18 Mary Katherine eventually
wrote to President Washington in an effort to preserve her job, but was
told that "I [Washington] have uniformly avoided interfering with any
appointments which do not require my official agency." 19 Thus, she never regained her position as postmaster.
Katherine never married or had any children. She continued to run
her small dry goods and stationary business until 1809 or 1810.
her death on August 12, 1816, Mary Katherine Goddard freed her
slave, Belinda Starling, and left Starling all of her possessions.
She wrote in her will that she "give[s] and grant[s] to my female
slave, Belinda Starling, aged about 26 years, her Freedom at my death;
and I also give and bequeath unto said Belinda Starling all the
property of which I may did posessed; all which I do to recompense the
faithful performance of duties to me." 20
life of Mary Katherine Goddard was not a standard one for the era.
As an independent businesswoman, she made her own money and lived
by herself. She embodied the revolutionary spirit of casting
aside traditional roles and embracing a new and independent spirit.
Personally, professionally, and politically, Mary Katherine Goddard was
a symbol of her times.
1. Margaret W. Masson, "Mary Katherine Goddard, 1738-1816: Printer, Publisher and Postmistress," in Notable Maryland Women
(Cambridge: Tidewater Publishers, 1977), 161-165. Return to text.
2. Joseph Towne Wheeler, The Maryland Press 1777-1790, Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1938. Accessed July 17, 2012. http://aomol.net/000001/000438/html/index.html. Return to text.
3. Masson. Return to text.
4. Ibid. Return to text.
5. Ibid. Return to text.
6. Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, 18 September 1773. Return to text.
7. Ibid. Return to text.
8. Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, 19 April 1775. Return to text.
9. Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, 26 April 1775. Return to text.
10. Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, 10 July 1776. Return to text.
11. Masson. Return to text.
12. Wheeler. Return to text.
13. Masson. Return to text.
14. MARYLAND STATE PAPERS (Red Books) Mary Katherine Goddard to Governor
Thomas Johnson, suggested character witnesses for William Goddard, 15
July 1779, MSA S 989-247, MdHR 4560-41. Return to text.
15. Masson. Return to text.
16. Wheeler. Return to text.
17. Edward T. James., Notable American Women, 1607-1950, Vol. 2 (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971) 55-56. Return to text.
18. Masson. Return to text.
"The Papers of George Washington: Documents," Alderman Library,
University of Virginia. Accessed July 17, 2012.
http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/documents/goddard/index.html. Return to text.
BALTIMORE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Wills, Original) Mary C. Goddard,
1816, MSA C437-60-66, 2/56/13/51. Return to text.
to Mary Katherine Goddard's Introductory Page
Copyright March 25, 2022 Maryland State Archives