When Mary Katherine Goddard’s father died in 1762, she and her mother left Connecticut for Rhode Island, where her brother, William, was attempting to establish himself as a printer. William had a reputation for starting disputes, and thus his mother and sister found themselves taking charge of the business and the Providence Gazette, the paper he had started.
William soon left for Philadelphia, and not long afterward, Mary Katherine left her mother in Rhode Island to go to Philadelphia to take charge of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, one of the largest papers in the colony, because her footloose brother had moved on to Baltimore.
In 1774, Mary Katherine closed the Philadelphia paper to move to Baltimore to bail William out once again. This time, she insisted that her name appear on the Maryland Journal as publisher. During the American Revolution, she was the only printer in Baltimore, keeping the paper alive even during the toughest times by bartering subscriptions for “country goods.” Mary Katherine also stuck to her principles and refused to be budged by upset subscribers.
She went after and received the contract to print the first copies of the Declaration of Independence with signatures in January 1777.
Shortly after she moved to Baltimore, she became its postmaster, probably the first woman in the colonies to hold that position, and likely the first woman in the colonies to be employed by the government. She held the post for 14 years and was greatly distressed when she was relieved of her duties because the government wanted the Baltimore postmaster to travel throughout the South to oversee post offices there and felt that this was too much for a woman to handle.
She protested her removal, and 200 of the leading businessmen of Baltimore signed a petition in her support, but to no avail. She remained in Baltimore, devoting her time and energies to a bookshop she had opened in conjunction with the printing company. She died at age 78.