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A Splendid Adventure

Australian Suffrage Theatre on the World Stage

Susan Bradley Smith

Australia led the world in the achievement of woman’s suffrage and the nation’s cultural history reflects this ambitious and progressive atmosphere. The impressive achievements of suffrage feminists in Australian theatre, however, are an untold story, as is their contribution to the development of international women’s theatre of the time. A Splendid Adventure brings these experiences and experiments to light through a group biography exploring the theatrical careers of Katharine Susannah Prichard, Stella Miles Franklin, and Inez Isabel Bensusan. Chosen because of their expatriate involvement in the women’s movement, their international profile as enfranchised Australian women, and their exceptional contribution to both the development of Australian drama and international feminist theatre, these women embody the energies and passions of Australian suffrage playwrights. The biographies of these major figures are accompanied by the dramatic stories of the New Women playwrights, the theatrical endeavours of women university students, and a consideration of international feminist theatre on tour in Australia, including the work of migrant suffragette Adela Pankhurst. The volume also includes the full text of a play by each playwright. Australian suffrage playwrights emerge from this study as exceptional feminists, expatriates, and theatre workers, whose «splendid adventures» have considerable implications for international women’s theatre, feminist dramatic criticism, and Australian theatre historiography.
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Chapter 4 Katharine Susannah Prichard: Socialist Desire and Suffrage Theatre

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CHAPTER 4

Katharine Susannah Prichard: Socialist Desire and Suffrage Theatre

Born at the height of a tropical hurricane in Fiji in 1883, Katharine Susannah Prichard had wanted to attend Melbourne University, but was unable to do so because her mother’s ill health caused her to miss a university bursary.1 Instead, after a stint as a governess she pursued a career in journalism, whilst simultaneously forging a life that has earned her a great respect and fame as an Australian writer. She is most admired as a novelist, but is also known as a dramatist for her 1927 award winning play Brumby Innes.2 Prichard was in fact a prolific writer of plays, and not only in the 1930s and later when most of them were staged.3 Ric Throssell, Prichard’s son, maintains that even though ‘she saw drama as a minor part of her lifelong literary output’, she admitted that the theatre was her first love, and claimed that she would rather have written for the theatre if only it had offered a livelihood.4 She participated in some early Australian drama evenings in Melbourne and had some of her work performed by the Actresses’ Franchise League whilst working in London from 1912 to 1915. Prichard was an ardent socialist and feminist, and this is reflected in her writing for the stage and everywhere else. The exploration of her ←109 | 110→early life and work as a dramatist offered here provides an opportunity to fathom how individual Australian women...

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