Mary Grannan National Historic Person (1900-1975)

Mary Grannan receiving the key to the City of Fredericton from Mayor Ray Forbes, Stewart Neill in 1948.
© Canadian Broadcasting Corporation / Library and Archives Canada / e003895009

Mary Grannan was an internationally-recognized, award-winning pioneer of English-language Canadian children's broadcasting. Through landmark programs such as Just Mary and Maggie Muggins, she helped establish a tradition of gentle, fantastical, elegantly slow-paced, wholesome storytelling. She was a bestselling author of children's books based on her scripts, which captured in print the rhythms and patterns of radio speech. She also wrote original works of fiction that inspired the creation of treasured Canadian radio and television shows. Her written works illustrate the influence of broadcasting on print in the mid-20th century. She made a historic stand that won her recognition from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) as the copyright owner of all books based on her writing after 1945. An active promoter of her books and broadcasts, she participated in publicity campaigns, international book tours, and merchandising, which included the sale of tens of thousands of Maggie Muggins dolls, created at her request.

Born in 1900 in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Grannan delighted in entertaining her sisters with concerts and plays staged in the backyard of their childhood home. She developed her abilities as a storyteller as a teacher, while in her spare time, she acted in amateur theatre companies, studied visual arts, learned to type, and took lessons in elocution. All of this training prepared her for a career in broadcasting. Her first radio performance was on CFNB Fredericton during Education Week in 1935. This led to the chance to produce programs of her own, including Aggravating Agatha (1936) and Just Mary (1937). Having decided on a career in broadcasting, Grannan moved to Toronto in 1939, where she joined the staff of the CBC.

Her first production for the CBC was the landmark Just Mary radio series, which started airing nationwide in 1938 and remained a fixture on the network until 1962. She went on to create many more radio programs about and for children, including The Children's Scrapbook (1939-1946), Sonnie and Susie (1944-1945), The Land of Supposing (1946-1948, 1950), Maggie Muggins (1947-1953), Karen Discovers America (1952), Jubilee Road (1953-1956), Mr. McGarrity's Garden (1954-1955), and Kim and Katy Circus Days (1958). She later adapted two of her radio shows for television, namely: Maggie Muggins (1955-1962) and Just Mary (1960). She received national and international recognition for her work, including two honourable mentions from the Institute for Education by Radio at Ohio State University, a Beaver Award for excellence in radio broadcasting, and an honorary membership to the International Mark Twain Society of Saint Louis, Missouri.

Books filled with new stories and others based on her scripts sold an estimated 400,000 copies by the time of her retirement. She actively participated in marketing campaigns to sell her books and promote her broadcasts, which transformed her into a public figure, known nationwide for her distinctive manner of dress, defined by oversized jewellery and extravagant hats.

After retiring from the CBC staff in 1960, she left Toronto for Fredericton, where she lived with her sisters, Ann and Helen. Mary Grannan died in January 1975.

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