Jane Aitken

Businesswoman Who Printed First Bible in America

Jane Aitken (1764–1832) is a significant historical figure in the early nineteenth century. She was one of the first women printers in the early United States and the first woman in the US to print an English translation of the Bible. Aitken was also a publisher, bookbinder, bookseller and businesswoman, a time when the independence of women was actively discouraged. She published at least sixty works from 1802 to 1812.

Image: The Thomson Bible, printed by Jane Aitken

Early Years
Jane Aitken was born July 11, 1764 in Paisley, Scotland, the eldest of four children born to Robert and Janet Skeoch Aitken. Her father Robert Aitken was a stationery and book merchant in Scotland as well as a talented printer and bookbinder. The Aitken family emigrated to the American Colonies in 1771 (Jane would have been 7 years old), and settled in Philadelphia, where Robert set up a business selling stationery and books, as well as printing and binding books.

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Women in Publishing

American Women Newspaper Publishers

In the eighteenth century, women often worked alongside their husbands and brothers to publish a newspaper as a family business. In some cases, the wife became the publisher after her husband took ill or died, usually until a son could take over the paper. The influence of these women in publishing as active participants in the business is an enduring feature of newspaper history to the present day.

Image: Elizabeth Timothy, America’s first female newspaper publisher, 1738
The South Carolina Gazette, Charleston, South Carolina

18th Century Women Publishers
In the 1700s, women edited approximately 16 of the 78 small, family-owned weekly newspapers circulating throughout the American colonies. Even if they did not run the printing operations, wives, mothers and sisters probably contributed significantly to many of the other publications. Because of their overwhelming duties as wives and mothers, women typically assumed control of a publication only after the death of a male relative.

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Anne Royall

First American Newspaperwoman

Anne Royall (1769-1854) was a professional journalist, travel writer and the first newspaperwoman in the United States. At the age of 62, Royall published her own newspapers, Paul Pry (1831-1836) and The Huntress (1836-1854), from her home in Washington, DC.

Childhood and Early Years
She was born Anne Newport near Baltimore, Maryland on June 11, 1769. In 1772 her parents moved to the frontier of western Pennsylvania, where the family lived in a log cabin only eight feet broad and ten feet long. It contained a bed, a puncheon table and four stools.

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Margaret Draper

Loyalist in the American Revolution

Not all printers, nor all women printers, were on the patriot side. As the war of words began to heat up, one who was pro-British had to flee Boston under the protection of the evacuating British troops. She was Margaret Draper, who had taken charge of the country’s oldest newspaper, the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston News Letter, in mid-1774.

Margaret was the granddaughter of Bartholomew Green, an early printer and publisher of the Boston News Letter. She married her cousin, Richard Draper, whose father had apprenticed under Green and had been taken into the business.

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Clementina Bird Rind

Early Newspaper Publisher and Printer

As it is for so many women in American history, there is little information about Clementina Bird Rind’s early years, except that she was born in 1740. Her husband, William Rind, was born in Annapolis in 1733, and was an apprentice there to printer Jonas Green. After a seven-year partnership with Green, the two suspended publication of the Maryland Gazette in October 1765 to protest the Stamp Act.

Shortly thereafter, Clementina Rind accepted the invitation of a group of Virginians, including Thomas Jefferson, to publish a newspaper in Williamsburg. The first issue of Clementina’s Virginia Gazette appeared May 16, 1766, under the motto: “Open to ALL PARTIES, but Influenced by NONE.”

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Anne Catherine Green

Colonial Printer and Publisher

Image: Anne Catherine Green
by Charles Willson Peale, circa 1770

Anne Hoof was most likely born in the Netherlands around 1720. She apparently moved to America as a child and grew up in Philadelphia. In 1738, she married Jonas Green, a Philadelphia printer employed by his cousin Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Bradford. Later that year, Franklin sent the Jonas Green to Annapolis, Maryland, to take over the publication of the Maryland Gazette.

The Greens rented a house on Charles Street in Annapolis, which at the time had just a two-story kitchen next to a two-room house. In the early 1740s, the owner expanded it to its current size to make room for Green’s print shop, a post office, and their 14 children, only six of whom lived past the age of 6. Anne involved in running the paper from the beginning, and learned the business.

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Ann Franklin

Colonial Newspaper Printer and Publisher

Little is known about the early life of Ann Smith, other than she was raised in Boston, and had a solid education. At the age of twenty-seven, she married James Franklin, printer and publisher of The New England Courant. James’ hostility toward church and government authorities resulted in a jail term for printing “scandalous libel.”

After his release from prison, James was ordered to cease printing the Courant, and publication of the newspaper was turned over to James’ apprentice and younger brother, Benjamin Franklin.

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Mary Katherine Goddard

First Female Newspaper Publisher (1775)

Mary Katherine Goddard (1738-1816) is famous for printing the first copy of the Declaration of Independence that included the names of all the signers. Like her younger brother William, Mary Katherine was educated by her mother, Sarah Updike Goddard, who taught them Latin, French and the literary classics. Mary Katherine’s father, Dr. Giles Goddard, was postmaster of New London, Connecticut, and the family was living there when Dr. Goddard died in 1757, leaving a sizable estate.

William Goddard completed an apprenticeship in the printing trade, and when he came of age, the family moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where Sarah Goddard lent her son the money to begin a printing business – the first in that colony. Both mother and daughter also began their careers as printers there in 1762, when Mary Katherine was 24.

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Anna Zenger

Colonial Newspaper Publisher

The Trial of John Peter Zenger
Anna Catherine Maulin was born in Germany, and immigrated as a child in 1710 with her family to escape religious persecution. Upon their arrival, the Maulin family settled in what is now New York City.  

John Peter Zenger came to America from Germany with his parents in 1710 at the age of 13. His father died on the trip, leaving his mother to raise the children alone.

Zenger’s mother agreed that John Peter would work as an indentured servant for William Bradford, who was a pioneer printer in the middle colonies. Zenger spent the next eight years with Bradford learning about printing.

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Elizabeth Timothy

First Woman Editor-Publisher in America

Elizabeth Timothy ( or Timothee) is recognized as America’s first female newspaper editor and publisher, and one of the world’s first female journalists. She performed these roles with distinction, especially considering her other responsibilities as mother, homemaker and widow.

Louis Timothy and his family were among a group of French Huguenot immigrants from Rotterdam who arrived in Philadelphia aboard the ship Britannia of London in 1731. Named on the ship’s roster were Louis and four Timothy children: Peter, Louis, Charles, and Mary, ranging in age from 1 to 6. Although Elizabeth Timothy’s name was not on the roster, she undoubtedly accompanied the family.

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