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Elizabeth Timothy: first female publisher in America

Posted by: | February 20, 2016 | No Comment |

In A History Of News by author Mitchell Stephens there is mention of a woman named Elizabeth Timothy in the chronology. In the year 1738 she became the first woman to publish a newspaper in America. That newspaper was the South Carolina Gazette. This came to be after her husband Louis Timothee passed away. After his passing not only did she become to be the first American female publisher but she was also the first female American franchise holder.

Elizabeth Timothy was born in Amsterdam on 30 June 1702 where she went to school and where she learned skills that would later be very useful to her in her career. She married Lewis Timothee when she was 22 years old. Her husband moved to Charleston, South Carolina where he revived the publishing of the South Carolina Gazette on a six-year franchise contract with Benjamin Franklin. Mrs. Timothy moved with her six children to Charleston but in 1738 her husband died due to “an unhappy accident.”

Lewis Timothy print Shop (Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Timothy)

In theory Mr. Timothy’s eldest son Peter took over the business but because he was just a child he was incapable of technically carrying on his father’s business. So instead the 14 year-olds’ name was used on the newspapers but his mother Elizabeth was managing the business herself. When she edited the first issue after the death of her husband she made an announcement that from then on until the contract expired the paper would be published by herself under the name of her son.

Lewis_Timothy_print_shop_plaque

(Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Timothy)

Under her management the newspaper flourished because she published a wide range of news not just local news. She also had advertisements in the newspaper, which people looked forward to. In 1746 Peter took over the South Carolina Gazette and Mrs. Timothy opened up a bookstore in the same area. She passed away in April of 1757. Her legacy continues to live on because she was exceptionally brilliant considering the status of women in her time.

Benjamin Franklin in his Autobiography on the 87th page mentions Lewis and praises Elizabeth Timothy:

“He was a man of learning, and honest but ignorant in matters of account; and, tho’ he sometimes made me remittances, I could get no account from him, nor any satisfactory state of our partnership while he lived. On his decease the business was continued by his widow, who, being born and bred in Holland, where, as I have been inform’d, the knowledge of accounts makes a female education, she not only sent me as clear a state as she could find of the transactions past, but continued to account with the greatest regularity and exactness every quarter afterwards, and managed the business with such success, that she not only brought up a reputably a family of children, but, at the expiration of the term, was able to purchase of me the printing-house, and establish her son in it.”

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