Your KS #67 – Katharine Susannah Prichard in a new Ernestine Hill and Daisy Bates biography
By Nathan Hobby
Katharine Susannah Prichard is a minor character in Eleanor Hogan’s splendid new biography, Into the Loneliness: the Unholy Alliance of Daisy Bates and Ernestine Hill. If anyone ever considers Katharine a forgotten or unfashionable figure today, most of her contemporaries have fared far worse. Daisy Bates lived among Aboriginal people in remote parts of Australia for decades but has become a notorious figure for her lies about their culture, especially false claims of cannibalism. Ernestine Hill was a nomadic journalist and writer who depicted outback Australia, including in the bestselling The Great Australian Loneliness (1937); however, in the decades after her death her popular non-fiction has not maintained a readership to the extent of Katharine’s work.
In 1947 Katharine camped with Ernestine and her son in Coolgardie while Katharine was researching Winged Seeds (1950). A detail I learned from Hogan’s book is that ‘Prichard invited the Hills to park their caravan in the orchard at her Greenmount house when they arrived in Perth so Ernestine could work on her much-delayed Territory book, an offer she took up…’ (p. 265) It’s a new scene to picture at the KSP Writers’ Centre, Ernestine Hill parked among the trees working on her own book. Hogan also believes that Katharine probably influenced Ernestine ‘to give a fuller, more even-handed and less idealised treatment of northern life’ in Territory, her 1950 book about the Northern Territory. Ernestine’s son said that during Katharine’s visit in Coolgardie, she encouraged Ernestine ‘to expose social ills & the evils of the present government’. (p. 314)
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