Her Name Was Mary Katharine by Ella Schwartz

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The children’s picture book biography Her Name Was Mary Katharine by Ella Schwartz (illustrated by Dow Phumiruk; Christy Ottaviano Books, 2022) tells about the woman whose name is on The Declaration of Independence. As a woman in Revolutionary America, Mary Katharine Goddard had a unique opportunity to succeed as a printer, eventually securing the chance to be the publisher of the printed copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Schwartz’s book carries the theme of independence, as can be expected by the subject matter. Since she lived in a time of stereotypical women’s roles, Mary Katharine was expected to grow up to be a wife and housekeeper. But, with her parent’s blessing, she was taught to read. When her father died and her older brother proved a bit too lazy for the day-to-day demands of a print shop, Mary Katharine and her mother took over the operations. Mary Katharine thus became a strong independent woman with the power of the written word behind her.

Schwartz mentions the ways that Mary Katharine’s increasingly became more independent as a printer, first by using her brother’s name as the publisher (since he technically owned it), then by using M.K. Goddard as the name of the publisher. When she printed the Declaration of Independence, though, she used her full name: Mary Katharine Goddard. This is the culmination of her own “Declaration of Independence” as a woman. It clearly echoes the call for independence of the men who signed the document.

This picture book ties together the threads of the story of Revolutionary America. It is not just biography of a strong woman but also a patriotic anthem for Independence Day.

Reviewed on June 28, 2024

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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