1770, Mary Katharine Goddard
Multiple Gals’ Depiction
Woman Who Signed the Declaration of Independence
At the bottom of the United States of America’s Declaration of Independence, after the signatures of the Founding Fathers after John Hancock, there is a printed advertisement of sorts. Mary Katharine Goddard published on the first copies to be distributed, her name and location. In essence, she was the only woman to sign that document.
The Smithsonian Magazine says Mary K was “Likely the United States’ first woman employee, this newspaper publisher was a key figure in promoting the ideas that fomented the Revolution”
In that article dated November, 2018, Goddard is credited with publishing the first copies of the document so that it could be distributed to enhance the cause.
Goddard had been watching her brother become more involved in the Colonists battle against the British for three years. She took over the 6 month old “Maryland Journal” newspaper from her brother who had run it into indebtedness and was sent to debtor’s prison. In her patriotic articles, she lambasted the British for specific actions against the Colonies. Over the next 23 years of her publishing career, she would continue to support the cause of American democracy.
Described by her biographer in 1862, Mary was known as ““dependable and… brilliantly erratic,” Ward L. Miner wrote in William Goddard, Newspaperman. Her father was the Baltimore Postmaster, but he became seriously ill and sent Goddard’s little brother to apprentice. With Mary and the brother taking care of the publishing business, it freed up the father to concentrate on building his lasting dream, a United States Postal service outside of the control of the British.
First Woman Postmaster Too
According to the Smithsonian, that July, the Continental Congress adopted Mary’s father William Goddard’s postal system for the country, then promptly appointed Benjamin Franklin as postmaster general of the nation. Mary Katharine was named Baltimore’s postmaster that October, which likely made her the United States’ only female employee at the time the nation was born in July 1776. When Congress turned to her to print copies of the Declaration the following year, she recognized her role in a historical moment. Though she usually signed her newspaper “M.K. Goddard,” she printed her full name on that document.
(for more indepth history, see the Mary K Goddard Historical Context Page here which includes links and images)
The depiction of Mary Katharine is a Buffalo Gals’ project, for use n educational programs focused on both the Colonial Period and Working Women (“what women were doing” shows). She will be played by 3 different models, and therefore her ensemble is flexible as were all garments in the middle 18th century, as well as in purpose. She will therefore have mix and match pieces that cover the different roles and occupations in her life.
We note several of the portraits of her are in the Regency style, or about 1800, included the book cover above dated 1783. While it would be consistent that she should be in the peak of her Postmaster career around 1800, her history is most often centered around 1775-1778 and her role in the Revolutionary War.
We have therefore chose n to start at 1770 in her early adult professional life as a printer, and to stay within that earlier decade. Regardless of the era and which portrait you study, it is clear she wore fashion for work. This we will discuss in the Design Development and Fashion History Pages here. More resources regarding fashion and lifestyle, particularly diving deeply into colors, fabrics, undergarments, and geographic differences can be found on the specialty pages in the Colonial Section on this website.
From the inspiration and research of our other Colonial projects, the design determination for this project will be done largely out of our heads., as we can best assume this was an extremely intelligent, hard working, driven woman who ignored many of the norms of the day. Our ensemble will be unique in that it will be geared for the working woman in a man’s workplace, while maintaining the proper decorum a woman of that day would have needed to be accepted in that man’s world (e.g. could not dress like a man as some did in particularly the 1860’s and 1880’s if she was to be heard by men or they would dismiss her as too radical).
From what we can tell of this woman, she was well accepted and respected by men of power, and more importantly, TRUSTED to get their ideas out to the people and to implement programs such as the postal system that would benefit the every day people as well.
In order of wearing
Shift: Lightweight linen, a bit lighter than usual with 3/4 sleeves and no ruffle for simplicity. Slight tuck/gathers at sleeves
Stays: Navy blue (oh so accurate) linen with tan linen lining and trim. Synthetic bones full flat boned plus silk satin ribbon. Front and back lacing with shoulder straps
Small Rump: soft small bum roll of linen with organic cotton stuffing for comfort
Inner Petticoat: quilted (it’s an old curtain!) cotton with twill tape ties, adjustable
Outer Petticoat: brown rust flax based linen dress (5.2 oz) weight
Shortgown: cotton plaid heavy woven loose fit
Mobcap: with lappet (over the ears) for safety in the print shop; no frills
Robe a l’anglaise “fancy” dress to go over same basic garments
Period shoes: replication with gold brass buckles
Stockings: 2 pairs over the knee (no garters): Hand block printed 80% silk/20% lycra over the knee and 80% cotton/20% lycra for workwear. Fancy ones will be worn with the fancy robe (gown), while cotton are coarse and will be worn with the shortgown.
Fichu: printed cotton from India sheer hand hemmed
Midnight Blue Kerseymere cloak: silk brocade lined for winter wear, long length and big hood