Bonfils wrote for William Randolph Hearst's news syndicate writing as Winifred Black, and for the San Francisco Examiner as Annie Laurie. She was one of the most prominent "sob sisters", a label given female reporters who wrote human interest stories. Her first husband was Orlow Black, and her second was publisher Charles Bonfils.
She is famous for staging a fainting on the street to test emergency services in San Francisco which were found wanting, resulting in a major scandal and institution of ambulance service. In 1900, she dressed as a boy and was the first reporter on the line at the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. She delivered an exclusive and Hearst sent relief supplies by train.
She covered the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and had a front row seat at the murder trial of Harry Thaw in 1907. Her coverage of the trial and descriptions of Thaw's wife Evelyn Nesbit earned her the label of "sob sister".
She reported from Europe during the First World War, later becoming a columnist.
She wrote a biography of Phoebe Apperson Hearst, The Life and Personality of Phoebe Apperson Hearst.
The name "Annie Laurie" was a tribute to her contemporary Nellie Bly. Her funeral was nearly a state event in San Francisco. Her body lay in state at the city hall.
Bonfils was the daughter of Civil War General Benjamin Sweet.
She was married in June 1891 to Orlow Black, a fellow worker on a morning San Francisco newspaper. They had one son in 1892. On September 13, 1897, she filed for divorce, charging Black with cruelty. "The divorce complaint pictures Mrs. Black as the breadwinner of the family."
- Time magazine (28 October 1935)
- Avis Berman and Francis Parker (1979). "Women in Communications". In O'Neill, Lois Decker. The Women's Book of World Records and Achievements. Anchor Press. pp. 439–440. ISBN 0-385-12733-2. "The Greatest Sob Sister of Them All"
- "'Annie Laurie' Sues," San Francisco Chronicle, September 14, 1897, page 14
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- ""Annie Laurie"". Time Magazine. 1935-10-28. Retrieved 2008-08-09.
- Encyclopædia Britannica entry (subscription required)