March is marked as a time to commemorate and celebrate the role of women in American history. For the print industry, which dates back thousands of years and, of course, since the beginning of American history, there is no shortage of women that have had a positive impact on printing directly or indirectly. However, for the most part, their contributions have gone unheralded and it is indeed difficult to find very much information without diving into a full-blown research paper. But we are going to take a moment to recognize a few of the many women, as well as women-focused organizations, that have made, and continue to make an impression on the print industry.
Through unfortunate personal circumstances, Elizabeth Glover is credited with bringing the first printing press to America, then the Thirteen Colonies, when she arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1638 with her children, sans her husband who died during the voyage from England to the colonies. The couple made the journey with the printing press and intentions of starting a printing business. Elizabeth followed through on those plans immediately upon her arrival. The press’s first documents were printed and distributed in early 1639, according to The History of Printing in America.
Three of the most valuable documents ever printed – Oath of a Freeman, An Almenack, and Bay Psalm Book – were printed using Glover’s printing press. Bay Psalm Book was the first book ever printed in America and only 11 copies of the original 1,700 copies printed, still remain today and sell for millions of dollars.
Mary Katherine Goddard
Mary Katherine Goddard got her start in printing at a young age at her brother’s print shop in Providence, Rhode Island, where her mother and she did much of the actual printing and publishing. In 1770, Mary Katherine took over managing her family’s second print shop in Philadelphia, which published the Philadelphia Chronicle and Universal Advertiser.
In 1776, Goddard managed the printing of the first copy of the Declaration of Independence that included the signers’ names, establishing herself as a key figure in the creation of the United States of America.
Mary Ann Shadd
Mary Ann Shadd was the first woman publisher in Canada and the first Black woman publisher in North America. In 1853, Shadd founded The Provincial Freeman, a weekly paper dedicated to anti-slavery. Because of the gender inequalities and limitations placed on women and people of color during the time, Shadd enlisted male contacts to be listed on the masthead of the paper. However, she ran all aspects of the paper.
Mary Ann Shadd has been honored for her activism in a number of ways in both Canada and the United States, including induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, designation by Canada as a Person of National Historic Significance, recognition at BME Freedom Park in Ontario for her and The Provincial Freeman, and a statue unveiled at the University of Windsor in Ontario.
Women in Print Alliance
From the PRINTING United Alliance website, the Women in Print Alliance was organized with the purpose of “connecting and empowering women in the print community so they have every opportunity to excel… creates opportunities for women in the printing industry to excel through connections, networking and content specifically for this rapidly growing group within the industry.”
The Women in Print Alliance is comprised of women professionals within the print industry. The group acknowledges progress has been made for women in the print industry, but the group highlights that there is still a gap that exists between male and female professionals. The Alliance provides resources for women, such as forums, mentoring, education, and professional development.
More information about Women in Print Alliance can be found here.
Girls Who Print
From the Girls Who Print website: “Girls Who Print is the world’s largest online network of women in the printing industry with more than 9,500 global members spanning all segments and career paths.” The organization was founded as a small LinkedIn discussion group, but rapidly grew to thousands of members that have joined a group that brings the woman’s perspective to the print industry.
Girls Who Print offers a variety of benefits to members and followers, including mentorship programs, a blog, a podcast, education, and awards.
More information about Girls Who Print can be found here.