Katharine Susannah Prichard moved with her husband Hugo (Jim) Throssell, VC, to Greenmount in 1920 and lived at 11 Old York Road for much of the rest of her life. She wrote most of her novels and stories in a self-contained weatherboard workroom near the house.
Katharine Susannah Prichard was born in 1884 in Levuka, Fiji, but spent her childhood in Launceston, Tasmania, then Melbourne, where she won a scholarship to South Melbourne College. She worked as a governess and journalist in Victoria then travelled to England in 1908. Her first novel, The Pioneers, (1915), won a Hodder and Stoughton literary competition. After her return to Australia, the romance Windlestraws, (1916) and her first novel of a mining community, Black Opal, (1921) were published.
Her two major novels, which were to give her national and international prominence, were written in Western Australia in the early years of her marriage. The novels were Working Bullocks (1926), which dramatises the physical and emotional traumas of timber workers in the karri country of Australia's south-west, and Coonardoo, a sensitive and often poetic novel which became notorious for its candid portrayal of relationships between white men and black women in the north-west.
But Katharine Prichard was not only a novelist. The far north-west provided inspiration and setting for her daring play Brumby Innes. Most of the short stories in the first of her four collections, Kiss on the Lips, (1932), were also from the 1920s, her amazing decade of creative activity. During this time her son was born, she founded the Communist Party in Western Australia and wrote her most adventurous novels, stories and plays.
The novel Intimate Strangers, (1937), was a turning point in her life. The 'fire of a regenerating idea' referred to in the novel's revised conclusion was reflected in the author's life; as pamphleteer and public speaker, Katharine Prichard fearlessly and emotionally promoted the cause of peace and social justice.
Her massive work, The Goldfields Trilogy - The Roaring Nineties, (1946), Golden Miles (1948) and Winged Seeds (1950), is a major reconstruction of social and personal histories in Western Australia's goldfields from the 1890s to 1946. The linking character in the trilogy is a woman after the author's own heart: energetic, engaging and an unconventionally free spirit.
In her thirteen novels, five collections of stories, twelve plays and the autobiography Child of the Hurricane, (1964), Katharine Susannah Prichard has left abundant record of her often inspired attempts to express 'the life of our people and country with love and an intense intimate sympathy'.
Professor Bruce Bennett
Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra