A print of the Declaration of Independence made and distributed by Mary Goddard, stamped with her name at the bottom, via WikiCommons.

For decades, magazines and newspapers have promoted some incredible changes across the world. Just like today, a few words on a small page can promote a big impact, even in a time such as the American Revolution. The evolution of the life of Mary Catherine Goddard is evidence of that, as she assisted in the distribution of one of the United States’s first newspapers, and later used that to catapult her career all the way to a position in the U.S. government. 

Born June 15, 1738, in Connecticut, Mary grew up the daughter of a New England postmaster and learned to both read and write—a skill not necessarily common for women during the time of the mid-18th century. As a postmaster, her father was in charge of the distribution of all newspapers, letters, and parcels across the entire region. 

As she grew older, Mary’s family purchased a printing press and began producing The Providence Gazette. She worked as a part of this family business until her mid-thirties when her brother moved to Philadelphia to start a business venture of his own. Mary followed him and the two began running the paper as part of a sibling duo. 

In the year 1774, Mary was given the opportunity to take control of the new paper they had been working on, The Maryland Journal, and oversaw the distribution of it during her brother’s absence. Thus, the two partners ensured that the region had dependable and consistent news throughout the Revolutionary War. The paper was published semi-weekly and included notable news updates for its readers in each edition.

Unfortunately, when Mary was in her early 40s, The Maryland Journal was forced to close down due to the unforeseen consequences of an argument her brother initiated with another powerful man within the city. 

After retiring from her role as a paper publisher and distributor, Mary was employed as the Baltimore City Postmaster, with the Smithsonian Museum asserting that she may have been one of the first-ever female employees of the newly formed United States government! She continued to work in this position for 14 years until ultimately dismissed by a male coworker who thought the position entailed too much traveling for a woman. 

Though pushed out of her workplace due to terrible sexism, the many years that Mary served her community should never be forgotten. She overcame many barriers to work in a position that required such a strong commandment of the written word along with knowledge of her community’s postal structure, and that in itself is incredibly impressive. 

Following her time as postmaster, she remained in Maryland, running a local bookshop until her death in the year 1816 due to unrecorded causes. Her life was spent in adoration of the printing press and postal system, with her putting in an extraordinary amount of effort to see that they functioned smoothly for many years. She truly was a heroine of the American Revolution. 

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