Happy 133rd birthday, Katharine Susannah


It’s Katharine Susannah’s birthday today. She’d be 133 years-old, were she alive. To me, she’s currently 27, as I’m in January 1911 with her. (She has aged ten biographical years since her last birthday.) I’m in this silent period of her life. I know of various things which happened to her, but there’s no primary personal material from the time itself. Her state of mind in October 1910 will remain a mystery to me. She left Melbourne for a “brief holiday” in Sydney, but ended up sailing to the USA, staying a few months, and then onto London, not returning home for five years. I have some theories, but I have to be rather tentative about it all. In celebration of her birthday, here’s a photo from 1915, low resolution, poor quality, but one which I only recently unearthed and which gives a different angle on the young Katharine Susannah Prichard. She’s carrying lavender; she had been cultivating an association with lavender for some years since playing the role of Sweet Lavender in a play in Yarram in 1904. The photo comes from “an appreciation by one of her friends,” Sumner Locke, in Everylady’s Journal, April 1915. Sumner Locke was the vibrant  young novelist who died in childbirth a couple of years later. It’s one of December’s tasks to uncover and tell of their friendship as two aspiring writers in pre-war London.

About Nathan Hobby

Biographer of the great Australian writer, Katharine Susannah Prichard. Honorary research fellow at University of Western Australia; academic librarian. Writing creative non-fiction and reflections on books, biography, literature, and history. View all posts by Nathan Hobby

7 responses to “Happy 133rd birthday, Katharine Susannah

  • wadholloway

    Miles Franklin visited London (from Chicago) in 1911 and joined the Women’s Freedom League – a breakaway from the Pankhurst’s. I’m not sure what her Australian connections were at that time, though Vance Palmer may have been in London then (from memory Nettie didn’t join him to get married until 1914). Anyway, good luck with your research, I enjoy the updates.


    • Nathan Hobby

      Thanks Bill. Strangely, KSP doesn’t seem to have met Miles Franklin till much later – even though they had mutual friends (including Sumner Locke) and were in London at the same time. But KSP’s first known letter to MF ca. 1930 indicates they don’t know each other personally. Nettie’s diary has some precious mentions of KSP once she Nettie does get there. I have no evidence KSP knew Vance well before Nettie married him, though it’s likely they’d met.


  • Lisa Hill

    Does this mean a potentially tax-deductible trip to London for our intrepid researcher?


  • Dr Denise Faithfull

    An interesting dilemma, Nathan. Perhaps you can speculate?


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