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Elizabeth Ann Timothy

Stepping up to the press – Elizabeth Ann Timothy – First US woman newspaper publisher

Elizabeth Ann Timothy

As is often the case with women over the course of history, Elizabeth Ann Timothy stepped into a position vacated by the death of her husband. Ms. Timothy assumed ownership and became the first woman publisher of a newspaper in the United States upon her husband’s death in 1738. He had owned and operated The South-Carolina Gazette in 1733, initially at the request of Benjamin Franklin. With a year left on the contract with Franklin, the Timothy family was required to continue The Gazette’s printing operations. It was customary for the eldest son to take over a family business in such circumstances. However, Elizabeth’s son Peter was a mere 13 years old at the time of his father’s death. Thus began Elizabeth Ann Timothy’s tenure as owner-publisher of the Gazette, a very influential paper in its time.

Cultural norms dictated that while Ms. Timothy operated the newspaper and other publications, her son, Peter was given credit. Regardless of whose name was on the masthead, it was clear that Elizabeth took to the task with conscientious focus; her efforts led to the paper’s increasing credibility. She did not shy away from publishing controversial stories, brought new and interesting information to the community, and even included worthwhile advice. She was known for her good business sense and was surely instrumental in keeping the family’s publishing enterprise alive. Peter took over control of the newspaper operations upon his 21st birthday in 1746. He became a leader in the journalism field and the paper was well-respected.

Elizabeth Ann Timothy remained a vital part of the downtown community, operating her own stationary and book store on King Street for about a year. Records are unclear as to her life for the next 10 years. She appears to have left Charleston, returning in 1756 and passing on a year later. She was inducted into the South Carolina Press Association Hall of Fame in 1973.

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