Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Boronia Lucy (Bonnie) Giles (1909–1978)

by Jan Ryan

This article was published:

Boronia Lucy (Bonnie) Giles (1909-1978), journalist, was born on 25 August 1909 at Collie, Western Australia, third child of Arthur Sanderson, an engine driver from England, and his Queensland-born wife Jessie Mary, née Cosham. Because of the peripatetic nature of her father's employment, 'Bonnie' was educated at various primary schools. From Subiaco State she won a scholarship in 1922 to Perth Modern School where she spent four and a half years. In 1927 she enrolled in arts at the University of Western Australia, studying part time while working for a motorcar firm. Next year she was employed as a cadet by the Daily News. She began a diploma of journalism in 1929, struggled until 1931 to balance work and study, but failed to complete the course. At St George's Anglican Cathedral, Perth, on 30 December 1932 she married Robert Owen Giles, a fellow journalist; they were to have five children.

Under the pseudonyms of 'Peg Peggoty' and later 'Auntie Nell', Bonnie Giles showed her flair for creative writing in the children's section of the Daily News and used her own drawings to complement her poems and short stories. In 1935 she adopted the pen-name 'Mary Ferber' from the writer Edna Ferber whom she admired. 'Mary Ferber' was to become a household name. She wrote what was essentially a 'Dorothy Dix' column, and its perceptive and critical comments attracted a wide and mixed readership. In an answer to a woman who complained that a husband in her street was avoiding wartime service, she responded: 'And I bet you send white feathers, too'. Giles managed to combine family life with her career as a journalist. Her other regular columns ranged from recipes for cooking to interviews with noted Western Australian families. In the latter years of World War II she began a weekly commentary on current affairs which was characterized by her 'sometimes hard hitting, sometimes whimsical approach'. For nearly twenty years the column was 'a Monday must for her admirers'.

Working tirelessly for disadvantaged people, Giles used her public standing and her articles to foster charitable causes. She sought a home for a blind, slow-learning Aboriginal boy from the country who had to be taken daily to the School for the Blind; she appealed for layettes for poor and unmarried mothers; and she requested radios for old-age pensioners. Administrative opportunities helped her to achieve her philanthropic goals. In March 1959 she was appointed to the State's Health Education Council. For ten years she edited Our Children, the magazine of the Slow Learning Children's Group. The minister for education made her a member of the Investigating Committee on Left-School Youth, a committee formed to consider the problems and further education of young people. She also addressed women's clubs on a host of topics.

Giles retired from journalism in 1969. Survived by her husband, two sons and two of her three daughters, she died of a ruptured dissecting aneurysm on 2 May 1978 at her Maylands home and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Daily News (Perth), 5 Sept 1969, 5 May 1978
  • Perth Modern School Archives
  • student records, 1927-31 (University of Western Australia Archives)
  • private information.

Citation details

Jan Ryan, 'Giles, Boronia Lucy (Bonnie) (1909–1978)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Sanderson, Bonnie
  • Peg Peggoty
  • Auntie Nell
  • Ferber, Mary

25 August, 1909
Collie, Western Australia, Australia


2 May, 1978 (aged 68)
Maylands, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.