Bio of Helen Bonfils

First in Publishing


Helen Bonfils was the first woman to serve as the publisher of a major daily newspaper. 

First on Broadway


Helen Bonfils was the first woman producer on Broadway.

An Giving Life


Helen Bonfils was one of the most generous philanthropists in American history. 

Life Story of Helen Bonfils


Early Years

Helen Bonfils was born in Peekskill,  New York. She was the second daughter of newspaper publisher Frederick Bonfils and his wife Belle Bonfils. Helen was born November 16, 1889. 

The family moved to Kansas in 1894 and to Denver the following year. It was in Denver that Frederick Bonfils started the Denver Post.

Newspaper Publisher

Frederick Bonfils died in 1933. Upon is death, Helen assumed management of the Denver Post. She became the first woman to lead a major daily newspaper in the United States. 

In addition to  running the newspaper, Helen Bonfils became one of the most generous philanthropists in the history of Colorado. Her efforts included countless endeavors on behalf of the poor and the establishment of the Belle Bonfils Memorial Blood Bank, the largest entity of its kind west of the Mississippi River. 

Theatre Icon

In addition to serving as the publisher of the Denver Post, Helen Bonfils was the first major female producer on Broadway. A year before she died, a Helen Bonfil's production won the 1971 Tony Award for Best Play.

An Incomparable Personal Life

Helen Bonfils Broadway producer George Sommes in 1936. Their marriage lasted about 20 years, when Sommes died.

In 1959 Helen married Tiger Mike Davis. Helen was 69 and Tiger Mike, who had been her chauffer, was 28. During the course of the marriage, one of the most complicated series of extramarital affairs spun out.

While married to Helen Bonfils, Tiger Mike had an affair with Phyliss McGuire of the McGuire Sisters musical trio. At the same time, Phyliss McGuire had an affair with mobster Sam Giancana. Sam Giancana, in turn, had an affair with Judith Exner. And, Judith Exner had an affair with John Kennedy. This entire chain of infidelity was occurring simultaneously. 

Last Years

Helen Bonfils spent the final years of her  life living in a hospital, occupying an entire floor. A man named Donald Seawell, who Helen engaged to assist in running the Denver Post, blocked her from contact with many other people who had been important to her. He garnered complete control over her finances and ended up using the funds for his own objectives. These included starting the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, which he took credit for creating despite the fact that the center would never have existed without Helen Bonfil's money. 

Remembering Helen

The Bonfils Girl, written by Mike Broemmel and Seth Holley and starring Cathy Washburn, is in its fourth year of production. The play memorializes the incomparable life of Helen Bonfils.