Katharine Susannah Prichard

Katharine Susannah Prichard (4 December 1883 – 2 October 1969) was an Australian author and co-founding member of the Communist Party of Australia.

Katharine Susannah Prichard
Katharine Susannah Prichard, Sydney, 1927-1928, May Moore
Katharine Susannah Prichard, Sydney, 1927-1928, May Moore
Born4 December 1883
Levuka, Fiji
Died2 October 1969 (aged 85)
Greenmount, Western Australia
Occupationwriter and political activist
Notable works
Notable awardsWorld Council Peace Medal 1959
(m. 1919; died 1933)
ChildrenRic Throssell

Early lifeEdit

Prichard was born in Levuka, Fiji in 1883 to Australian parents. She spent her childhood in Launceston, Tasmania, then moved to Melbourne, where she won a scholarship to South Melbourne College. Her father, Tom Prichard, was editor of the Melbourne Sun newspaper. She worked as a governess and journalist in Victoria, then travelled to England in 1908.

Her first novel, The Pioneers (1915),[1][2] won the Hodder & Stoughton All Empire Literature Prize.[3]

After her return to Australia, the romance Windlestraws[4] and her first novel of a mining community, Black Opal, were published.

Political life and marriageEdit

Prichard moved with her husband, war hero Hugo "Jim" Throssell, VC, to Greenmount, Western Australia, 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. In her personal life she always referred to herself as Mrs Hugo Throssell. Her friends called her Kattie. They had a son, Ric Throssell, later a diplomat and writer.

Prichard was a founding member of the Communist Party of Australia in 1921 and remained a member for the rest of her life. She worked to organise unemployed workers and founded left-wing women's groups. She campaigned in the 1930s in support of the Spanish Republic and other left-wing causes. Although she had frequent arguments with other Communist writers such as Frank Hardy and Judah Waten over the correct application of the doctrine of socialist realism to Australian fiction, she remained supportive of the Soviet Union and its cultural policies when many other intellectuals, such as Eric Lambert and Stephen Murray-Smith, left the party in the 1950s. Her public position as a communist and a female writer saw her harassed by West Australian police and the federal government throughout her life.[5] The official surveillance files opened on Prichard in 1919 were not closed until her death in 1969.[5]

Prichard's commitment to her politics and her position as a woman in the public sphere also saw her socially isolated by the conservative social groups which dominated Perth in this period. She was the subject of constant rumours and frequent anonymous tip offs to Western Australian police of any communist activity.[5] She was also part of a new community of free thinking public intellectuals who, among other things, challenged notions of acceptable sexuality.[5]

Her two major novels, which were to give her national and international prominence, written in Western Australia in the early years of her marriage, were Working Bullocks (1926)[6][7] which dramatised the physical and emotional traumas of timber workers in the karri country of Australia's south-west, and Coonardoo (1929),[8][9] a novel which became notorious for its candid portrayal of relationships between white men and Australian Aboriginal women in the north-west.

The far north-west of Australia provided inspiration and setting for her daring play Brumby Innes.[10]

Most of the short stories in the first of her four collections, Kiss on the Lips (1932),[11] were also from the 1920s, her decade of great creative activity. During this time she wrote her most adventurous novels, stories and plays.

Death of husbandEdit

While she was visiting the Soviet Union in 1933, her husband Jim Throssell committed suicide when his business failed during the Great Depression.[12][13]

In 1934 her membership of the Communist Party of Australia and the Movement Against War and Fascism led her to lead the Egon Kisch welcome committee, which rapidly metamorphosed into a committee to defend Kisch from exclusion from Australia.

The novel Intimate Strangers (1937)[14][15] 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.[citation needed]

Goldfields trilogyEdit

Her extended work The Goldfields Trilogy – The Roaring Nineties (1946),[16] Golden Miles (1948),[17] and Winged Seeds (1950)[18] is a notable reconstruction of social and personal histories in Western Australia's goldfields from the 1890s to 1946.

Her autobiography Subtle Flame, published a few years before her death, exhibited the complex legacy she left behind[19]

Prichard died at her home in Greenmount in 1969. Her ashes were scattered on the surrounding hills.

Her son Ric Throssell committed suicide when his wife Dodie died in 1999. He had fought for many years to clear his name, after being accused of passing classified information to his mother, or actively spying for the Soviet Union. His 1989 book covering this was called My Father's Son.[20]

The centenary of Prichard's birth was celebrated by UWA academics in a collection of essays.[21]


Katharine Prichard Writers' Centre, Greenmount

The home has now become the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers' Centre, a foundation promoting humanitarianism, the study of Katharine Susannah Prichard, and encouraging writing in Western Australia, where Prichard spent most of her life.[22]

The Shire of Mundaring public library branch in Greenmount is named after her as well.[23]

The 1996 Australian film Shine depicts the close correspondence between Prichard and Australian pianist David Helfgott. She was played by Googie Withers. Prichard helped to raise money for Helfgott, to enable him to go to London to study music.

A house at Abbotsleigh, a private school on Sydney's North Shore, has been named after her.



Short story collectionsEdit

  • Kiss on the Lips and Other Stories (1932)
  • Potch and Colour (1944)
  • N'Goola and other Stories (1959)
  • Tribute : Selected Stories of Katherine Susannah Prichard (1988) edited by Ric Throssell



  • The Real Russia (1934)


  • Clovelly Verses (1913)[29]
  • The Earth Lover and Other Verses (1932)[30]


  • Child of the hurricane, (1964)[31]

Selection from collected worksEdit

  • On Strenuous wings (1965)[32]


  • Throssell, Ric (1975), Wild Weeds and Windflowers[33]
  • Macintyre, Stewart (1998) The Reds[34]
  • Nathan Hobby, The Red Witch: A Biography of Katharine Susannah Prichard, Melbourne University Press, 2022.ISBN: 9780522877380.


  1. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah (1915), The pioneers, Hodder & Stoughton, retrieved 1 June 2015
  2. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah (2010), The pioneers, Singapore Monsoon, ISBN 978-981-08-4880-4
  3. ^ Throssel, Ric "Katharine Susannah Prichard 1883–1969", The Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre (website) Archived 13 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah (1916), Windlestraws, Holden & Hardingham, retrieved 1 June 2015
  5. ^ a b c d Nile, Richard (1990). "Eroticism, Sex and the Politics of Imagination". Studies in Western Australian History. 11: 121.
  6. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah (1926), Working bullocks, Jonathan Cape, retrieved 1 June 2015
  7. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah (1972), Working bullocks, Angus and Robertson, ISBN 978-0-207-12518-8
  8. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah, Coonardoo ([1st ed.] ed.), New York, W. W. Norton, retrieved 1 June 2015
  9. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah (2002), Coonardoo, HarperCollins, ISBN 978-0-207-19847-2
  10. ^ ""BRUMBY INNES."". Western Mail. Perth. 26 December 1940. p. 7. Retrieved 1 June 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah (1932), Kiss on the lips : and other stories, Jonathan Cape, retrieved 1 June 2015
  12. ^ "MRS. HUGO THROSSELL RETURNS". The Daily News (LAST RACE ed.). Perth. 26 December 1933. p. 1. Retrieved 1 June 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  13. ^ Jalland, Pat (1 June 2005), "A private and secular grief: Katharine Susannah Prichard confronts death and bereavement.(Critical essay)", History Australia, Monash University ePress, 2 (2): 42/1–42/15, doi:10.2104/ha050042, hdl:1885/80496, ISSN 1449-0854, S2CID 141748780
  14. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah (1937), Intimate strangers, Jonathan Cape, retrieved 1 June 2015
  15. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah (1990), Intimate strangers, Collins/Angus & Robertson, ISBN 978-0-207-16651-8
  16. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah (1983), The roaring nineties: a story of the goldfields of Western Australia, Virago Press, ISBN 978-0-86068-379-7
  17. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah (2012), Golden Miles, Crows Nest, NSW A&U House of Books, ISBN 978-1-74331-207-0
  18. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah; Modjeska, Drusilla, 1946- (1984), Winged seeds, Virago, ISBN 978-0-86068-421-3{{citation}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  19. ^ "KATHARINE SUSANNAH PRICHARD Failure to integrate the political beliefs with fiction". The Canberra Times. 19 August 1967. p. 11. Retrieved 1 June 2015 – via National Library of Australia. – a review of her autiobiography, and a biography by Henrietta Drake-Brockman
  20. ^ Throssell, Ric (1997), My father's son (Rev. ed.), Em Press, ISBN 978-1-86330-028-5
  21. ^ Hay, John, 1942-; Prichard, Katharine Susannah, 1883–1969; Walker, Brenda, 1957-; University of Western Australia. Centre for Studies in Australian Literature; University of London. Australian Studies Centre (1984), Katharine Susannah Prichard centenary essays, Centre for Studies in Australian Literature, University of Western Australia ; London : Australian Studies Centre, University of London, ISBN 978-0-86422-017-2{{citation}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ "Objectives". Katharine Susannah Prichard Writing Centre. 2006. Retrieved 2 April 2009. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 February 2009. Retrieved 3 April 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ http://www.mundaring.wa.gov.au/YourCommunity/ShireLibraries/Pages/default.aspx. Archived 28 September 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah (2012), The black opal, Crows Nest, N.S.W. Allen & Unwin, ISBN 978-1-74331-314-5
  25. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah (1980), Working bullocks (Rev. and updated ed.), Angus & Robertson, ISBN 978-0-207-14324-3
  26. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah (2013), Coonardoo, Sydney HarperCollinsPublishers Australia Pty Ltd, ISBN 978-0-7322-9693-3
  27. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah; Brandenstein, C. G. von (Carl Georg von), 1909-; Prichard, Katharine Susannah, 1883–1969. Bid me to love. 1974 (1974), Brumby Innes, and Bid me to love, Currency Methuen Drama, ISBN 978-0-86937-013-1{{citation}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  28. ^ Gozzoli, Lorena; University of Western Australia. Department of English (1994), Katharine Susannah Prichard and the representation of aborigines in her short fiction, "Brumby Innes" and "Coonardoo", retrieved 2 June 2015
  29. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah (1913), Clovelly verses, McAllan & Co, retrieved 2 June 2015
  30. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah; McGrath, Eileen; Shea, E. H. (Ernest H.); Sunnybrook Press (1932), The earth lover and other verses, Sunnybrook Press, retrieved 2 June 2015
  31. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah (1964), Child of the hurricane : an autobiography, Angus and Robertson, retrieved 2 June 2015
  32. ^ Prichard, Katharine Susannah; Williams, Joan (1965), On strenuous wings : a half-century of selected writings from the works of Katherine Susannah Prichard, Seven Seas Publishers, retrieved 2 June 2015
  33. ^ Throssell, Ric; Prichard, Katharine Susannah, 1883–1969; Brissenden collection (1990), Wild weeds and windflowers (Rev. ed.), Angus & Robertson, ISBN 978-0-207-16683-9{{citation}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  34. ^ Macintyre, Stewart (1998). The Reds: The Communist Party of Australia from Origins to Illegality. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 9781864485806.

External linksEdit