Mary Graham Bonner’s 1923 book titled 365 Bedtime Stories as a children’s bedtime story for every day of the year. The bedtime story collection includes twenty full color illustrations by Florence Choate and Elizabeth Curtis. Over the course of 2023, I will review and re-print some of the stories, prioritizing those which come with illustrations. Because I will be posting regularly about the book, I thought that it would be appropriate to first introduce Bonner.
I need more time to research Choate and Curtis, but I will note here that they also illustrated a 1917 book by Bonner and also there is a November 9, 1947 New York Times review of a book that Choate and Curtis wrote and illustrated together (note Curtis died in 1946 and Choate in 1953).
Mary Graham Bonner was born on September 5, 1890 in Cooperstown, New York (source). According to Jane Badger Books, Bonner moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia with her family at a young age (source and archived). She died in Riverside, New York, on February 12, 1974, which was noted in a short New York Times obituary.
Bonner initially attended Halifax Ladies’ College. According to Jane Badger, Bonner had already established herself as a children’s author as a teenager, and thus she “did not progress far through further education.” According to a short obituary in the New York Times, Bonner “graduated from the local Ladies’ College and the Conservatory of Music.” (It is possible that the Jane Badger article meant she did not continue her education beyond graduation.)
Jane Badger states that Bonner “wrote over 4,400 stories, and over 60 books, ranging from books for the very young to non fiction (often about Canada) and science fiction.” Canada’s Early Women Writers Project lists 48 books authored by Bonner, with the first being Daddy’s Bedtime Animal Stories in 1916 and the last being Wonders of Musical Instruments in 1963.
The book that we will be studying, 365 Bedtime Stories, was in line with Bonner’s most well-known work. Her Times obituary explained that “[f]or some years she wrote the daily bedtime stories syndicated by the Associated Press.”
Baseball fans may have taken note that Bonner was born in Cooperstown. The Times’ obituary stated that she had an interest in baseball:
Born of an old Cooperstown family, she absorbed enough of the town’s baseball tradition to write many books and stories about the game. Out of consideration for masculine sensitivities, she often signed her baseball books for boys ‘M. G. Bonner.’
In Canada’s Early Women Writers Project, I took note of seven books about baseball and an additional book about sports. However, it does not specify whether her name appears as M.G. Bonner on all of them.
Bonner’s obituary noted that she left behind no surviving relatives. According to Family Search, she married Eugene Early in 1916, but appears to have had no children.
The vast majority of Bonner’s books remain in copyright. Project Gutenberg has her third book, Daddy’s Bedtime Bird Stories (1917) in its collection (I am sure that we will cover it eventually). While I have not sifted through the materials, I confirmed that you can find many of her newspaper stories and poems by searching her name on Elephind, a newspaper search engine which I reviewed in an earlier article (see how I used to to find poems by Charlotte Becker, a prolific poet in the early 20th century).