Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: SC 97

Papers of Marita Bonner, 1940-1986

Overview

Correspondence, essays, short fiction, photographs, etc., of Marita Bonner, Radcliffe College Class of 1922.

Dates

  • 1940-1986

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

TERMS OF USE

Access. Originals closed; use digital images.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Marita Bonner as well as copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Extent

.21 linear feet (1/2 file box)

The papers of Marita Bonner include photocopies of many of Bonner's published writings as well as her notebook of handwritten stories. Also included are family photographs; correspondence with friends and family members, including Bonner's daughter Marita Joyce and with schools and agencies regarding genealogical and family information; essays about Bonner and her writings from scholars Joyce Flynn and Nellie McKay; and a proposal for Flynn's and Joyce Occomy Stricklin's anthology of Bonner's writings: Frye Street and Environs: The Collected Works of Marita Bonner (1987).

BIOGRAPHY

Marita Bonner, an African American writer, composer, and educator, was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts on June 16, 1898, to Joseph Andrew and Mary Anne (Noel) Bonner. She attended Brookline High School where she wrote for the school's magazine The Sagamore; and Radcliffe College where she graduated in 1922 with a B.A. in English and Comparative Literature. While at Radcliffe Bonner commuted from Brookline since the college did not allow African American students to live on campus. As a Radcliffe student Bonner founded the school's chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a Black sorority. She was a gifted musician (referred to in the Radcliffe class poem as "1922's Beethoven") and wrote the music for the winning songs in the Radcliffe song competition for 1919 ("The Heathen Song") and 1922 ("The China Lady"). She held memberships in several clubs, including the Music, Mandolin, German, and English Clubs. She also contributed short stories to the Harvard Review and the Boston Post. In her junior year, Bonner was admitted to Charles Townsend Copeland's writing seminar, and one of her sketches "Dandelion Season" was selected to be read annually to the Radcliffe classes. During her senior year she taught at Cambridge High School. After graduation she continued teaching at the Bluefield Colored Institute, Bluefield, Virginia (1922-1924) and at Armstrong High School, an institution for Black students in Washington, DC. (1924-1931). In 1930 she married William Almy Occomy (1901-1968), an accountant, and they moved to Chicago. They had three children: William Almy (1931-2006), Warwick Gale (born 1934), and Marita Joyce (born 1939).

Marita Bonner, an African American writer, composer, and educator, was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts on June 16, 1898, to Joseph Andrew and Mary Anne (Noel) Bonner. She attended Brookline High School where she wrote for the school's magazine The Sagamore; and Radcliffe College where she graduated in 1922 with a B.A. in English and Comparative Literature. While at Radcliffe Bonner commuted from Brookline since the college did not allow African American students to live on campus. As a Radcliffe student Bonner founded the school's chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a Black sorority. She was a gifted musician (referred to in the Radcliffe class poem as "1922's Beethoven") and wrote the music for the winning songs in the Radcliffe song competition for 1919 ("The Heathen Song") and 1922 ("The China Lady"). She held memberships in several clubs, including the Music, Mandolin, German, and English Clubs. She also contributed short stories to the Harvard Review and the Boston Post. In her junior year, Bonner was admitted to Charles Townsend Copeland's writing seminar, and one of her sketches "Dandelion Season" was selected to be read annually to the Radcliffe classes. During her senior year she taught at Cambridge High School. After graduation she continued teaching at the Bluefield Colored Institute, Bluefield, Virginia (1922-1924) and at Armstrong High School, an institution for Black students in Washington, DC. (1924-1931). In 1930 she married William Almy Occomy (1901-1968), an accountant, and they moved to Chicago. They had three children: William Almy (1931-2006), Warwick Gale (born 1934), and Marita Joyce (born 1939).

Bonner published her writings until 1941 when she decided to focus on raising her children and involving herself in the First Church of Christ, Scientists, which she and her husband joined that year. She also resumed her teaching career after passing education classes required by the Chicago Board of Education, which discounted her previous teaching experience and Radcliffe degree qualifications. Bonner found teaching positions at Phillips High School (1944-1949) and at the Doolittle School (1950-1963), where she taught students who were educationally disadvantaged.

Bonner died in Chicago on December 6, 1971, from complications of smoke inhalation after a fire in her Chicago apartment.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: R86-38

This collection was given to the Radcliffe College Archives by Joyce Occomy Stricklin, Marita Bonner Occomy's daughter, in October 1986.

Processing Information

Processed: April 1987

By: Jane S. Knowles

Title
Bonner, Marita, 1898-1971. Papers of Marita Bonner, 1940-1986: A Finding Aid
Author
Radcliffe College Archives, Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
und
EAD ID
sch01097

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

Contact:
3 James St.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
617-495-8540