‘Florence Broadhurst (designer, couturier, painter): Her Secret and Extraordinary Lives’
Born in 1899 to a farming family in outback Queensland, Florence Broadhurst became Australia’s mistress of reinvention, touring Asia as a singer, opening a finishing school in Shanghai, renaming herself Madame Pellier and “becoming” a French couturier in London, and returning to Australia as a supposedly English aristocrat who claimed to be a friend of Winston Churchill. At 60 she declared Australia was afraid of colour and launched her defining venture - a wallpaper business, creating over 500 hugely popular designs. On 16 October, 1977, at the age of 78, she was found murdered in her Paddington wallpaper showroom. Her murder remains unsolved.
Florence Broadhurst is today arguably one of Australia’s most famous designers. Yet for years the eccentric maven was forgotten – her violent death unexplained, her remarkable image library gathering dust and danger of being destroyed forever. Helen O’Neill, author of the award-winning biography Florence Broadhurst – Her Secret and Extraordinarily Lives (Hardie Grant Books), discusses the Florence Broadhurst phenomenon in vivid detail and explains how and why this remarkable woman has been catapulted back onto the international stage.
Helen O’Neill is a multi-award-winning, Sydney-based journalist whose work has appeared everywhere from The Weekend Australian magazine to The Guardian, The Observer, The Sunday Telegraph, Reader’s Digest and US Marie Claire. She was a writer on The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian newspapers and as an editor at Australian Vogue. Since going freelance, she has worked on documentaries which have screened across the world, tutored young journalists, and been the recipient of an international residence from the Australia Council’s literature board, spending six months in Paris, France, at the Keesing Studio. Her writing has won awards in science, health and travel journalism. The Walkley-nominated Florence Broadhurst is her second biography. Her third, on the acclaimed architect Harry Seidler, will be published by Murdoch Books in 2013.
The Menzies Centre for Australian Studies organises a research seminar series throughout the academic year with events being held weekly during term time. The seminar series is a fantastic opportunity for the centre to welcome academics from a broad range of disciplines working on Australian subjects and to exchange research ideas and new discoveries.