Most people in the world know or have at least heard of the Declaration of Independence. A document declaring that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” and it was signed by thirteen states on July 4th 1776 (“The Declaration of Independence”). It was a revolutionary document that changed the way America functioned.
Despite how important this document was, for a long while after it was signed, copies of it were circulated without the names of the people who signed it. But, in January of 1777 Mary Katherine Goddard was the first person to attain and print a copy of the Declaration of Independence that had the signatures names. It was not just a massive scoop of news for her to gain access to, but her circulation of the full version of the document was politically impactful because it made everyone aware of who signed the document and forced those people to actually own up to what they said and match their deeds to those beliefs (“National Women’s History Museum”). But it was also a risk for her, as the printing of the document could be considered treason by the British government (“Flashback Photo”, 2014).
Above is a copy of the version of the Declaration of Independence that Mary printed and circulated. For her to print this and to have done it as a woman during the time period, was a powerful message on many fronts. It proved that a woman could gain access to information that even most men did not possess at the time, and that she could publish this important document with her own skills and merit, despite the risk to herself.
Image Source: Page 1 of In Congress, July 4, 1776. The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America. (n.d.). Retrieved April 02, 2016, from https://www.loc.gov/resource/bdsdcc.02101/
Flashback Photo: Mary Katherine Goddard Risks Her Life, Prints the Declaration of Independence – New England Historical Society. (2014). Retrieved April 02, 2016, from http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/flashback-photo-mary-katherine-goddard-risks-life-prints-declaration-independence/
National Women’s History Museum. (n.d.). Retrieved April 01, 2016, from https://www.nwhm.org/education-resources/biography/biographies/mary-katherine-goddard/
The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription. (n.d.). Retrieved April 03, 2016, from http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html