Katharine Susannah Prichard Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Born during a hurricane in Fiji, Katharine Susannah Prichard took that image as the title for her autobiography, Child of the Hurricane. When Prichard was three, her Australian journalist father moved the family from Fiji to Melbourne, then to Tasmania. Prichard thrived in this rural island state, and she based her 1928 children’s book, The Wild Oats of Han, on her idyllic childhood there.

After graduating from South Melbourne College, she worked as a governess in Gippsland and in New South Wales, both rural Australian areas. From the Gippsland experience she drew material for her first novel, The Pioneers, a historical tale that recounts the opening of the region and bristles with sturdy settlers, escaped convicts, cattle rustlers, and other frontier types. In 1908 she went to London as a freelance journalist for the Melbourne Herald, and on her return she served as the paper’s society editor. A second novel, Windlestraws, which appeared in 1917, had been written before The Pioneers. Set in the London theater world, its melodramatic narrative relates the adventures of a Russian prince and a dancer.

In 1919 Prichard married Hugo Throssell, and they settled in Western Australia. Throssell, a decorated World War I hero, established a ranch but was plagued by financial problems, which the 1929 Depression worsened. Meanwhile, Prichard devoted herself to politics and writing. She was a founding member in 1920 of the Communist Party of Australia. A year later, she published The Black Opal, her first attempt to blend economic theory and fiction. The novel tells how an opal-mining community in Western Australia guards its independence by opposing the evils of capitalism. Working Bullocks...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Beasley, Jack. The Rage for Life: The Work of Katharine Susannah Prichard. Sydney: Current, 1964. Praises Prichard’s fiction for its political awareness.

Colebatch, Hal. “New Light on Katharine Susannah Prichard.” Antipodes 4 (Winter, 1990). Contends that, ironically, by being a communist the much-honored writer “supported the world’s all-time greatest killer of writers.”

Ferrier, Carole, ed. As Good as a Yarn with You. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. A collection of Prichard’s letters to other Australian women writers is included in the American edition of this work, which contains letters between a number of writers.

Throssell, Ric. “A Reluctant Daughter of Mark Twain.” Antipodes 3 (Winter, 1989). Discusses Prichard’s travels and her work’s reception in the United States.

Throssell, Ric. Wild Weeds and Windflowers. Sydney; Angus & Robertson, 1975. Prichard’s main champion has been her son Throssell, whose critical biography sympathetically examines the conjunction of Prichard’s life and writing.