Katharine Susannah Prichard was born in Levuka, Fiji during a hurricane. (She was called 'The Child of the Hurricane' by the local population and used the name for the title of her 1963 autobiography.) Prichard grew up in Tasmania and Melbourne, and was educated at home until she was fourteen when she received a half-scholarship to attend South Melbourne College. Although she matriculated successfully, her mother's illness and the family's poverty made it impossible for her to pursue university studies.
Prichard became a governess in country New South Wales, but returned to Melbourne to teach, and to attend night lectures on literature by Walter Murdoch. In 1908, a year after the suicide of her father, she travelled to London carrying a letter from Alfred Deakin that praised her journalistic skills highly. In London, she worked as a freelance journalist on assignment for the Melbourne The Herald, and, following her return to Australia, became the editor of the women's page of the Herald for two years. Five years later, Prichard returned to England to continue her writing career.
In 1919, Prichard married Victoria Cross recipient and Gallipoli veteran, Hugo (Jim) Throssell, and they lived in the outer Perth suburb of Greenmount. For Prichard, literature and politics were always intertwined. Splitting her time between the two, Prichard continued to work on her fiction, while becoming a founding member of the Australian Communist Party in 1920 and a member of its central committee. Her son, Ric Throssell, was born in 1922. While Prichard and her sister were travelling overseas in Europe in 1933, Jim Throssell committed suicide.
In 1934, Prichard helped to set up the Australian Writers' League, and was elected federal president the following year. She co-founded the Unemployed Women and Girls' Association in Perth, and, in 1938, established the Modern Women's Club. In the same year, she was one of the founding members of the Fellowship of Australian Writers, Western Australian Branch.
Prichard's novels cover a wide thematic territory, including the colonial period and pioneer experiences in Australia, melodramatic romantic relationships, political ideas, the Australian landscape and environment and Aboriginal culture. The novels have been been translated into numerous languages. In addition to her novels, Prichard also wrote short stories, drama, autobiography and some poetry.
Prichard continued both her political involvement, especially her commitment to the Peace Movement and to socialism, and her writing well into her seventies and eighties, and was nominated for a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1951 by the Western Australian branch of the Fellowship of Australian Writers. Her ashes were scattered in the bush around her Greenmount home. The house later became the home of The Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers' Centre – the oldest writers' centre of its kind in Australia.
Several short stories and selections in translation listed by Ric Throssell in Wild Weeds and Wind Flowers (p. 263) have not been traced.
The December 1927 issue of the Home contains a brief discussion regarding Prichard and her recent visit to Sydney. The author also responds to the question as to whether her novel The Pioneers was inspired by Frederick McCubbin's painting in the Melbourne Gallery; see the monthly column, 'Sydney S'Amuse', which appears on pp. 94 and 96 of the December issue.
Moggie and Her Circus Pony1967single work picture book children's Moggie is a circus girl, and Frisky a small Shetland pony, daughter of Melba the cleverest star. They are all born to circus life. Jess, the show-off but pretty sister of Moggie, tries to tame Frisky to her will, but the Big Man and Moggie understand Frisky's rebellion.
Coonardoo : The Well in the Shadow1928single work novel Set in North-West of Western Australia, it describes life on cattle stations and the relationship between the white owner of the station and Coonardoo, an Aboriginal woman.
Brumby Innes 'begins with a corroboree and, like Coonardoo, attempts to engage with a portrayal of Aboriginal life. Its central character, Brumby Innes, is a swaggering drunk who exploits the black workers on his station and abuses the women; he bears a close resemblance to Sam Geary in Coonardoo. Yet, Brumby Innes provides the central energy of the drama, and the celebration of that energy in the play conflicts with the dramatic critique of his sexism and racism. Brumby Innes's character exemplifies the ambivalent attitude in Prichard's work toward this type of male hero. Portrayed as stereotypically masculine, such characters are admired for their energetic, vital sexuality; yet, the extreme limitations of such maleness are also acknowledged.'