Mary Katherine Goddard and the Declaration of Independence

Mary Katherine Goddard and the Declaration of Independence

The very first printing of the Declaration of Independence did not include a list of all the signers. In fact, only two names appeared on the original document:  John Hancock and Charles Thomson (president and secretary of Congress respectively).  The very first printing of the Declaration of Independence, with signatures, including the members of Congress, was done in January 1777, some six months after the July 4, 1776 independence declaration itself.  This printing with signatures was expressly ordered by Congress in these words:  “That an authenticated copy of the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCY, with the Names of the MEMBERS OF CONGRESS, subscribing the same, be sent to each of the UNITED STATES.”  The job of printing that copy fell to Mary Katherine Goddard.

The printed copy with the signatures was a significant event.  Indeed, at the time, the action itself—an independent break of the colonies from Great Britian—was treason.  Mary Katherine Goddard, who clearly supported the ideals of the new nation, made sure that she was identified on the document.  Hers is the only woman’s name on the printed version of the Declaration of Independence.

Mary Katherine Goddard was one of America’s first female publishers.  Previously, she had published under the gender-neutral name, “M.K. Goddard;” however, when offered the job of publishing the Declaration of Independence, she used her full name, along with the original signers’ names.  Although it is true that she did not sign the Declaration of Independence, she certainly  made her proverbial mark on the document by printing her full, obviously female name.  On all copies that she printed that were distributed to the colonies, “Printed by Mary Katherine Goddard” was included at the botton of the copy.

A significant player in early America’s free press, Mary Katherine Goddard, as a woman, was not permitted full independence.  She served as Baltimore Postmaster (“Postmistress,” actually) for 14 years.  She was removed from that position when the U.S. Postmaster, Samuel Osgood, decided that he did not believe a woman could handle all of the travel associated with the job because, he maintained, a woman lacks stamina.  Alas, after her capable service of 14 years, she was removed and replace with a man who had no experience.  She appealed that decision to the U.S. Senate and to George Washington himself, but the decision was not reversed.

Mary Katherine Goddard died on August 12, 1816, at the age of 78.  She was an early champion of freedom of speech and press and the rights of women, and she most definitely took full ownership of her work. 


The very first printing of the Declaration of Independence did not include a list of all the signers. In fact, only two names appeared on the original document: John Hancock and Charles Thomson (president and secretary of Congress respectively). The very first printing of the Declaration of Independence, with signatures, including the members of Congress, was done in January 1777, some six months after the July 4, 1776 independence declaration itself. This printing with signatures was expressly ordered by Congress in these words: �That an authenticated copy of the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCY, with the Names of the MEMBERS OF CONGRESS, subscribing the same, be sent to each of the UNITED STATES.� The job of printing that copy fell to Mary Katherine Goddard.