Timothy, Elizabeth (d. 1757)

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Timothy, Elizabeth (d. 1757)

Colonial American newspaper publisher and printer. Born in the Netherlands; died around May 1757 in Charleston, South Carolina; educated in the Netherlands; married Lewis Timothy (a publisher, died 1738); children: Peter (c. 1725–1782); Louisa (Mrs.James Richards); Charles (d. September 1739); Mary Elizabeth (Mrs. Abraham Bourquin); Joseph (d. October 1739); Catherine (Mrs. Theodore Trezevant).

Immigrated to Philadelphia (1731); moved to Charleston, South Carolina (1733); was publisher of South-Carolina Gazette (1737–46); was proprietor of book and stationery shop (1747).

The first woman in America to publish a newspaper, Elizabeth Timothy published the South-Carolina Gazette following the December 1738 death of her husband Lewis Timothy. Before handing the paper over to her oldest son, she managed the paper singlehandedly for about two years. In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin noted that Timothy had "manag'd the Business with such Success that she not only brought up 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."

Elizabeth Timothy was born and raised in the Netherlands, where she married Louis Timothée (who would change the spelling of his name in 1734). It is speculated that, like her husband, Timothy may have been a descendant of French Huguenots who had fled to Holland after the 1685 nullification of the Edict of Nantes brought religious and social persecution to France's Protestants. She was given a "Female Education" in Holland, including a grounding in accounting, which would serve her well in the management of the Gazette. In 1731, Elizabeth, her husband and their four young children emigrated from Rotterdam to Philadelphia. They remained there until 1733, when they moved to Charleston, South Carolina. Two more children were born in the colonies.

In Charleston, Lewis Timothy went into partnership with Benjamin Franklin and became the publisher of the weekly South-Carolina Gazette. Founded in 1732, the Gazette was the colony's first permanent newspaper. When Lewis died in an accident after five years of publishing the paper, Elizabeth Timothy stepped in as publisher without missing an issue. She maintained the paper in the name of her oldest son, Peter, who was about 14 at the time, until he was able to take sole control of the venture in 1746. While her first year as publisher was somewhat rocky, the paper steadily improved thereafter, and Timothy also published at least 20 books and pamphlets by other writers between the years 1739 and 1745.

After turning the Gazette over to her son, Timothy became owner of a small book and stationer's shop in 1747. She left Charleston in 1748, living elsewhere until her return in 1756. The following year, on April 12, 1757, she wrote a will disposing of her three houses, land, and eight slaves. Timothy died within a month, leaving behind a paper that ranked among the most prominent in the colonies and one of America's first newspaper dynasties. After the death in 1782 of her son Peter, the renamed Gazette of the State of South Carolina (later the State Gazette of South Carolina) was published by Peter's wife Ann Timothy until her own death in 1792, when it was taken over by her son.


James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1971.

Read, Phyllis J., and Bernard L. Witlieb. The Book of Women's Firsts. NY: Random House, 1992.

Lolly Ockerstrom , freelance writer, Washington, D.C.