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Spence, Catherine Helen

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1825-1910) Scottish-born author, in Australia from 1839, where she was a central literary figure for more than half a century; her first novel, Clara Morison: A Tale of South Australia during the Gold Fever (1854), was the first novel by an Australian woman to be set in Australia; An Agnostic's Progress from the Known to the Unknown (1884) is an afterlife allegory. She wrote two works of sf interest. Handfasted (written circa 1879; 1984), a Utopia with Lost-World elements set in the hidden state of Columba somewhere in Southern California, was rejected by the Sydney Mail in 1879 and never published during her lifetime because of the forthrightness of its Feminist views on women's autonomy. The title refers to a traditional form of trial marriage, by virtue of which, in Columba, single mothers are not treated as pariahs. Less impressively, A Week in the Future: 1888 Forecast of Life in 1988 (December 1888-July 1889 Centennial Magazine; 1987) takes its heroine by Suspended Animation from the repressions of Adelaide to the socialist Utopia that London has become in 1988. The first book is a fully dramatized novel of real quality, but the second, only novella-length, more resembles a tract. In her later years, Spence fought for proportional representation and women's suffrage; in South Australia, where she lived, the latter was granted in 1894. [JC/PN]

see also: Australia.

Catherine Helen Spence

born Melrose, Scotland: 31 October 1825

died Adelaide, South Australia: 3 April 1910



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