Tuesday, March 22, 2022

National Women's History Month - Winifred Bonfils, Reporter

Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

Winifred Sweet Black Bonfils
from Wikipedia

I wish I knew more about what the newspaper newsrooms were like back in the late 1800s. There were some amazing women in the news industry, both as reporters and newspaper owners. I've written about Nellie Bly, Polly Pry, Nora Marks, and Eva Gay. In this post Annie Laurie, the name Winifred Bonfils used as an investigative reporter is in the spotlight.

Born Winifred Sweet in Wisconsin on 14 October of 1863. During her lifetime she seemed to let nothing stop her. This seemed to come naturally to the Sweet family. Her father was General Benjamin Sweet. Her sister, Ada, was the first female dispersing agent in the US government.

Most biographies say she was educated in private schools and started out to be an actor, but soon made the change to reporter. She began her career at the Chicago Tribune but soon landed a job with Wm. R. Hearst's first newspaper the San Francisco Examiner.

1900 Newsroom of the Times-Picayune
from Wikiwand

Most consider her 'fainting spell' as the beginning of her career as an investigative journalist. She pretended to faint on the street in San Francisco in order to write a piece on the conditions of emergency treatment in the city. The expose' exposed the problems with one of the outcomes being the city purchasing an ambulance.

It was said she published some sixteen thousand articles in her lifetime. Some of the events she covered were the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the murder trial of Harry K. Thaw. To report on the aftermath of the 1900 hurricane in Galveston she dressed as a boy and slipped through the police lines. She was the first reporter in, and history says the only woman.

She married twice. Her first marriage was to Orlow Black. Reports say she divorced him, charging cruelty. Her second marriage was to Charles A. Bonfils. This takes us back to the first post in this series. Polly Pry, Mrs. Leonel O'Bryan, the reporter for the Denver Post who saved the life of Frederick Bonfils one of the owners of The Denver Post, and older brother of Charles.

Winifred Sweet Black Bonfils died March 25, 1936, in San Francisco, California.

One of my favorite quotes attributed to her is: "I'd rather smell the printer's ink and hear the presses go around than go to any grand opera in the world."

If you want to read the other post, here are the links:

Nellie Bly, Polly Pry

Eva Gay, Nora Marks

Until next time, wishing you a productive and profitable year.



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