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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