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Sanford, Winifred Balch Mahon (1890–1983)

Lou Rodenberger Biography Entry

Winifred Sanford, short story writer of the 1920s, daughter of Henry and Nellie (Brooks) Mahon, was born at Duluth, Minnesota, on March 16, 1890. Her father was an attorney, and her mother's father was a professor of Latin and Greek. She attended Duluth Central High School and Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a major in English from the University of Michigan in 1913. After teaching for four years in Michigan and Idaho, Winifred moved to New York City. In 1917 she married a Duluth classmate, Wayland Hall Sanford, then a young attorney in the navy. In 1920 the Sanfords moved to Wichita Falls, Texas, where Wayland Sanford established a practice in oil and gas law. Mrs. Sanford's experiences and observations of life during the Burkburnett oil boom inspired many of the short stories she had begun to write.

In January 1925 her first published story appeared in The American Mercury, edited by H. L. Mencken. Mencken praised Sanford's work and published nine of her short stories between 1925 and 1931. Three stories appeared in Woman's Home Companion during that time. Her last was published in North American Review. Her writing career ended in 1931 after the family moved to Dallas, where Winifred Sanford spent two years bedfast with tuberculosis. She is best known for the story "Windfall," which has appeared in several anthologies. She was a charter member of the Texas Institute of Letters in 1936. Despite her abbreviated career, she has been recognized as one of the more gifted of the early Texas women writers with the publication of a new edition of the collection of her fiction, Windfall and Other Stories, in 1988. Sanford was president of the Parkland Hospital Auxiliary and the Dallas Branch of American Association of University Women. She served on the board of the Dallas YMCA and was a member of Dallas Lawyers' Wives, the Shakespeare Followers, the Alpha Phi Sorority, and the First Unitarian Church. The Sanfords had three daughters. Winifred Sanford died on March 24, 1983, in Dallas.

Dallas Morning News, March 26, 1983. Wichita Daily Times, May 14, 1925.


  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Dramatists and Novelists
  • Fiction
  • Women
  • Authors and Writers

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Lou Rodenberger, “Sanford, Winifred Balch Mahon,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 21, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: