Katharine Susannah Prichard

Katharine Susannah Prichard was a renowned writer, controversial activist, and advocate for world peace. She became a Mundaring Shire resident when she moved with her husband, Hugo Throssell, to a 2 bedroom weatherboard cottage on 2 acres in Greenmount in 1920. She remained a resident until her death in 1969.

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Katharine Susannah Prichard

Born during a hurricane in Levuka, Fiji on 4th December 1883 to Australian parents, Katherine Susannah Prichard spent her childhood in Launceston, Tasmania. When she was 3 years old the family moved to Melbourne, where she later won a scholarship to South Melbourne College. Her father, Tom Prichard, was editor of the Melbourne Sun newspaper. After leaving school she worked as a governess and journalist in Victoria, then travelled to England in 1908 to work as a reporter for the Herald newspaper, which found her travelling to Paris, London, and North America.

 

For some years, she worked as a war correspondent and during that time she wrote "The Pioneers", which she entered into a Novel Competition in London. Although she didn't win the top prize of 1,000 pounds, she did win 250 pounds, which was a considerable sum in the early 1900s. Before she returned to Australia in 1915, she met Lieutenant Hugo Throssell of the 10th Light Horse, who was recovering from shrapnel injuries received in Gallipoli. Hugo was the son of landowner George Throssell, who briefly was Premier of Western Australia. Hugo was later to become her husband and was the recipient of the Victoria Cross.

 

After their marriage on 29th January 1919 Hugo and Katharine moved to Greenmount, Western Australia, and lived at 11 Old York Road in a 2 bedroom weatherboard house on 2 acres, which boasted panoramic views over the Perth coastal plain. where Katharine lived for much of the rest of her life.

 

In 1922 Prichard gave birth to a son, Ric, who was later to become a diplomat and writer, and also her biographer. Ric Throssell was also an interesting and controversial figure throughout his life (read more HERE).

 

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. In 1933 she travelled to Russia to collect material for her political writings, resulting in considerable controversy back home in Perth. Also in this year, while Prichard was in Russia, her husband Hugo committed suicide when his business failed during the Great Depression. 

Prichard's public position as a communist and a female writer saw her harassed by West Australian police and the federal government throughout her life. The official surveillance files opened on Prichard in 1919 were not closed until her death on 2nd October 1969.


Prichard wrote most of her novels and stories in a self-contained weatherboard studio next to her Greenmount cottage. In her personal life she always referred to herself as Mrs Hugo Throssell, and her close friends called her Kattie. 

Katharine Susannah Prichard published 24 volumes of work, novels, short stories, poems and plays and the translations of her major novels and stories were in 15 foreign languages. Her Greenmount cottage is now the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers' Centre, and it's philosophy is based on promoting humantarianism, the study of the author herself, and encouraging emerging and established writers.