A Life by Design: The Art and Lives of Florence Broadhurst by Siobhan O'Brien

By Siobhan O'Brien

Florence Broadhurst, the one-time chanteuse of Shanghai, Bond highway salon proprietor, world-renowned wallpaper clothier and Sydney socialite lived a existence steeped in subterfuge and deception. the following for the 1st time we get a glimpse on the interesting girl in the back of the hand-printed brocades.

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The following day a reporter from the Sydney Morning Herald reported that ‘Four of the company gave an unexpectedly clever female impersonation. ’ A successful Sydney season was followed by performances at Brisbane’s Empire Theatre. On 28 January 1921, The Australia Variety and Show World reported, ‘The Smart Set Diggers made their first appearance at the Empire on Saturday and were greeted with a crowded house at both sessions. ’ At some point between March 1921 and December 1922, Florence Broadhurst joined the all-male cast of returned soldiers now based in Toowoomba.

Janet Mosely was the subject of a portrait painted by Florence in 1961. She provided an insight into Florence the artist. ‘She was unapproachable, commanding and spoke with clipped, quick English tones through a stiff chin, lips and teeth. Her attitude was, “you have come to sit for me, now sit”. ’ Sally Fitzpatrick, who worked with Florence, said that the Florence she knew spoke at a million miles an hour in a mad gibberish, which was probably a result of her inability to hear as well as she once could.

At about the same time as Florence wrote this manifesto, she turned up for her first singing lessons with Kate Gratehead, a charitable woman who organised a host of musical events during World War I to raise money for Australian servicemen abroad. QX5 3/9/04 10:10 AM Page 37 Bookhouse The Orient, 1922–1927 student. Once a week, May hitched up her horse and buggy and took her younger sister to the Mount Perry Railway Station, where Florence caught the train to Bundaberg. Kate Gratehead was able to fine-tune the budding contralto, and Florence soon scooped up a clutch of awards at eisteddfods in Bundaberg and Toowomba.

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