Woman’s Name Appears on Declaration of Independence!
Blog resumes with post-Independence Day focus on activist pioneer Mary Katherine Goddard
After an admittedly long hiatus to complete book 2 of my Civil War-era DarkHorse Trilogy, Honor Among Outcasts (planned for release this fall), I’m resuming my weekly blog with an emphasis on history, my special interest, which I use liberally in all my writing. So on this post-Independence Day, I thought I’d share a fascinating, little-known fact about America's history as the perfect way to re-launch my blog.
It seems that, according to a July 3 article in The Washington Post, a woman’s name was added to the signatures on the Declaration of Independence.
Yes. Women may not have had the vote in 1776, but that apparently didn’t stop Mary Katherine Goddard from adding her “Jane Hancock” at the bottom of printed copies of the Declaration, an act considered treason against the powerful British Empire. Not only did Goddard risk being charged with treason, according to the Post, she also received death threats. Remember, a large percentage of the original thirteen colonies’ inhabitants, perhaps about half, were Tories, meaning they remained loyal to Britain!
History, it seems, is never as clear-cut as imagined in popular mythology.
So what’s the story behind the story?
Columnist Petula Dvorak writes that Goddard, a newspaper editor (and publisher), was hired by the Founding Fathers to print copies of the Declaration for distribution to the public.
As a fighter for the rights of women to pursue a career, Goddard, who must have had a great deal of chutzpah, wrote and published “scoops” on the early battles in the Revolution, including Bunker Hill. When she printed those copies of the Declaration on her presses, the gutsy Goddard added her name, along with the founders—potentially a hanging offense against the powers that be.
How’s that for speaking truth to power?
Also cited in the article was the fact that taking arms against the Empire showed that “Americans would rather die than live slaves.” Goddard must have been one tough-minded lady. Later, she ran a newspaper in Baltimore under the name M. K. Goddard, and became the first female postmaster of Baltimore.
History recognizes the “Big Names” who help bring change and new ideas to society. But sometimes the real power behind change are the great mass of people who throw real passion into fights for justice and equality. The real heroes and heroines, while often unheralded, are pervasive, and deserve our praise for their efforts.
To learn more about Mary Katherine Goddard, I recommend these two articles: