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Women in the US Postal Service

When we hear the word “postman” we immediately think of a man carrying a mailbag and delivering mail from house to house. Rarely do we associate the picture of a USPS postal worker as a woman. Yes, there’s gender bias here, we know, but it seems that it is not easy to remove the idea of traditionally male roles in our society even if advances have been made in ensuring that women are treated equally as men. But did you know that the US Postal Service is one of the few independent federal agencies that have promoted women as managers from the time it was founded in 1775?

In the early days of U.S. Mail, there were more women than men working in the United States Post Offices although their appointments were not without their share of controversies. The first woman Postmaster in the United States was Mary Katherine Goddard who was removed by Postmaster General Samuel Osgood. Although she petitioned for reinstatement directly to President George Washington and the United States Senate, her call remained unheard as both did not wish to interfere with Osgood’s decision.

Like the call of many groups today who advanced the causes of women workers, Sarah DeCrow, the first lady postmaster of Hertford, North Carolina, also had to deal with very low pay—the reason why she kept trying to resign. On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, the first postmistress of Lancaster, Pennsylvania Mary Dickinson was one of the highest paid at that time: She earned the fifth highest salary in 1847 at $1,305.37

In 1814, the appointment of Rose Wright as the first lady postmaster of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was met with controversy. Postmaster General Gideon Granger had doubts about appointing a woman into the position citing legal provisions (although there was no specific law against women appointees, only the fact that the word “postmaster” was masculine and he might have interpreted it to mean that women cannot hold such positions). Still, Wright got appointed and served in her post for eight years.

The number of women postmasters grew after the Civil War where it was estimated that there were more than 6,000 of them at that time. Of course, lady postmasters continue to serve today. There are also women who work as mail carriers, mail handlers, clerks, and other positions within the Postal Service.

So don’t let the “man” in “postman” deter you from pursuing a US postal career. The annals of USPS history have shown that women are an integral part in carrying out the job of US Mail successfully.