On March 23, 1752, printing in Canada was officially begun with the launch of the Halifax Gazette from the printing press of John Bushell. Newly arrived from Boston, John Bushell took over the operation of Canada's first printing press in 1751, when its owner and John's former business partner, Bartholomew Green, died suddenly in Halifax. John brought with him, from Boston, both his printing experience from his days as an apprentice, and his children, one son and one daughter. It was his daughter, Elizabeth, who worked in the printing office of the Gazette newspaper with her father, as both a compositor and presswoman.
Little is known about the events in the life of Elizabeth Bushell. Documentation shows that she worked in her father's business for the entire time he operated the press, from the first issue of the Gazette in 1752, to his death in 1761. Elizabeth is known to have stayed in Halifax after her father's death, although no records exist to support this. There is also no record, in the Halifax archives, of her death. What is known is that her brother relocated to Philadelphia, where he also ran a printing press until his death in 1797.
Although the Gazette was the first and most regular publication of the Bushell printing press, other print jobs were obtained from both local businesses and the provincial government, as John was appointed King's printer. The paper has been described as semi-official, printing such official government publications as statutes, laws, proclamations and treaties, and semi-independent, publishing news and advertisements from local sources, as well as occasionally opposing the government. The Bushell press published official documents for Governors Hopson and Lawrence, as well as Lieutenant-Governor Monckton.
It has been noted that Elizabeth worked on the Bushell press to produce these documents, most of the time on her own. Her father, it seems, was otherwise occupied. He has been described by Bertha Bassam as "a good worker, but was always harried by debt and by his lamentable interest in liquid refreshment." Since Elizabeth was an expert compositor, she probably helped to keep regular issues of the Gazette coming off her father's press, as well as completing the rest of the print jobs for the local merchants and government of the boom town in which they lived.
Since no documentation describes the work that Elizabeth performed in the print industry in Halifax, we can only draw conclusions about the extent of her work in her father's office. For now, she shares the place with her father in our history as both helping to establish the first printing office, and launching the first newspaper in Canada.
Bassam, Bertha. — First printers & newspapers in Canada. — Toronto : University of Toronto Press, 1968. — 25 p. — (University of Toronto School of Library Science Monograph Series in Librarianship, No. 1).
Hudak, Leona. — Early American women printers & publishers. — Metuchen, N.J. : Scarecrow Press, 1978. — 813 p.
Thomas, Isaiah. — The history of printing in America. — Albany, N.Y. : J. Munsell, printer, 1874. — Vol. 1, 487 p.