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Your K.S. #18: Governess—Katharine Susannah Prichard in Yarram, 1904

Pictured left: Katharine Susannah Prichard ca. 1904, from Child of the Hurricane p. 42.

I’ve been working on my biography of Katharine Susannah Prichard for two and a half years now. My current title is “Before She Was Any of These Things: The Early Katharine Susannah Prichard, 1883-1919.” In Australia’s cultural memory, Katharine has become the aging, tenacious communist living in Greenmount, widow of a Victoria Cross winner, author of her most famous novel, Coonardoo. My biography recovers Katharine before she was these things and tells some of the story of how she became them.

I’ve recently passed 70,000 words, but more importantly, I’m up to 1915. Years are a better measure of progress than number of words since I know what year I have to reach, while the projected length has been expanding. Patience is an important virtue in writing a biography—or any book—and realistically it’s going to be a couple of years before the biography is published. In the meantime, I’m excited to have a chance to share a chapter at the KSP Sunday Session on 19 February 2017 at 4.00pm.

It’s chapter five I’ll be reading, “Governess,” the story of 1904 in Katharine’s life. I chose it because it is a dramatic and largely unknown year of her life as well as being quite self-contained as a narrative. Twenty-years-old and living away from home for the first time, Katharine set the tongues wagging in Yarram, a small country town in Gippsland. She beguiled several men, including a drug-addicted German doctor on the run from his wife. Starring in a play, she earned a new nickname. She gathered notes and impressions that she would turn into her first award-winning novel, The Pioneers, a decade later.

What better place to hear the story of this important year in Katharine's life than at the house she lived in for fifty years? Tickets at the door are $10 general entry or $5 for members and refreshments will be provided.

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