Author: Catherine Helen Spence

Author: Catherine Helen Spence (1825–1910)

Biography: Catherine Helen Spence was born in 1825 near Melrose, Scotland, the daughter of lawyer and banker David Spence. When her father's business failed in 1839, the family moved to southern Australia where her father worked as clerk to the Adelaide Municipal Council. Spence worked as a governess and began writing novels and journalism. Her novels, all set in Australia, include: Clara Morison: A Tale of South Australia During the Gold Fever (1854); Tender and True: A Colonial Tale (1856) about marital estrangement; Mr. Hogarth's Will (1865) about two sisters left destitute by their uncle's will who emigrate to Australia; The Author's Daughter (1868) about a woman who emigrates to Australia and returns to England to marry; and An Agnostic's Progress from the Known to the Unknown (1884). As a journalist, she wrote for numerous Australian newspapers and British periodicals, such as Cornhill Magazine and The Fortnightly Review. In the 1870s, she turned from writing fiction to addressing social causes, especially child welfare, education, election reform, religion (she became a Unitarian), and women's suffrage. She never married, but raised three families of orphaned children. She died in 1910, hailed as "The Grand Old Woman of Australia."

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References: ADB; Times (4 April 1910)

Fiction Titles:

  1. Clara Morison: A Tale of South Australia during the Gold Fever.  2 vol.  London: John W. Parker, 1854.
  2. Tender and True: A Colonial Tale.  2 vol.  London: Smith, Elder, 1856.
  3. Mr. Hogarth's Will.  3 vol.  London: Bentley, 1865.
  4. The Author's Daughter.  3 vol.  London: Bentley, 1868.
  5. An Agnostic's Progress from the Known to the Unknown.  1 vol.  London: Williams and Norgate, 1884.

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