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Author photo. Portrait of Catherine Helen Spence [picture] [189-?]. <br><a href="http://www.nla.gov.au">National Library of Australia</a>, nla.pic-an14617296

Portrait of Catherine Helen Spence [picture] [189-?].
National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an14617296

Catherine Helen Spence (1825–1910)

Author of Clara Morison

Includes the names: Catherine H. Spence

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Catherine Helen Spence was born in Scotland to a large family. When she was 14, her parents took the family to live in Australia to improve their financial opportunties. They endured drought and rough living conditions on a wheat farm before moving to the city of Adelaide. There they prospered: her father was elected town clerk and her brother John Brodie Spence grew up to become a prominent banker and legislator. Catherine wrote short pieces and poetry that were published in The South Australian, and went to work as a governess at age 17. She became a journalist for the Adelaide Argus newspaper, writing under her brother's name. Her first book was the novel Clara Morison: A Tale of South Australia During the Gold Fever (1854). Her second novel Tender and True (1856) was a success, followed by Mr. Hogarth's Will (1865), which was serialized in the Adelaide Weekly Mail, and four others. Although many of her works were originally published anonymously Catherine Spence is now celebrated as one of Australia's first women journalists and one of the finest novelists of the country's colonial era. She was an advocate for better care for poor children, and wrote numerous essays and nonfiction works about social reforms. Although she never married, she adopted three families of orphaned siblings and also ran a children's school with her mother and sister. She also wrote about women's right to vote and employment, including A Plea for Pure Democracy (1861). While she was active in suffrage organizations, Australian women became the first in the world to win the franchise. She also traveled to Britain and the USA for lecture tours. Her autobiography, which was unfinished at her death, was completed and published posthumously. She was honored with her portrait on the Australian five-dollar note.
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