Katharine Susannah Prichard (1883-1969) wrote thirteen novels chronicling communities and industries around Australia, including the landmarks Working Bullocks (1926) and Coonardoo (1929). In writing the first biography of Prichard since her son’s account in 1975, part of the biographer’s task is to wrestle with the many bio-myths which have defined Prichard in cultural memory. As an entry point to her long and rich life, this paper presents an overview of the biographer’s revisions to key bio-myths about her, including the burning of her papers, her birth in a hurricane, her Communist Party involvement, and her trip to the Soviet Union in 1933.
Dr Nathan Hobby is an honorary research fellow at the University of Western Australia. The Red Witch: A Biography of Katharine Susannah Prichard will be published by Melbourne University Press in 2021, expanding his PhD thesis on Prichard’s early life. His novel, The Fur, won the TAG Hungerford Award in 2003. He lives in Perth and blogs at nathanhobby.com.