Friday, July 9, 2010

A life less ordinary - Florence Broadhurst

It's funny what you can discover when you're waiting to have your hair cut.  I had a choice between 20 women's magazines and 'Period Homes'.  I took the latter and found an interesting article on Florence Broadhurst who led a life less ordinary until she was murdered in 1977. 

Born in 1899 near to Mount Perry, Queensland, 400km north of Brisbane, by the early 1920s she was touring South East Asia and China in a musical comedy troupe.  In 1926 she established the Broadhurst Academy in Shanghai to teach music and dance to the elder children British ex-pats.  By the 1930s she was in London where she opened a dress salon on Bond Street, acting as the French couturie, Madame Pellier.  She married and divorced in quick succession, then took up another relationship and gave birth to a son.  During World War II she joined the Australian Women's Voluntary Services, offering hospitality to Australian soldiers.

In 1949 the family moved back to Australia, where she pretended to be British with some aristocratic connections.  She became a landscape painter, travelling around northern and central Australia.  In 1959 she established the Australian (Hand Printed) Wallpapers Pty Ltd and in 1961 her partner left her, leaving her a motor-sales business to also run.  Known for her striking wallpaper designs she dominated the high end of the decoration business, with designs becoming ever more bold due to a desire to see them despite her failing sight.  To the end of her life, Broadhurst was a socialite, dyeing her hair with henna, dressing as someone a fraction of her age, and reputedly dating younger men.  Her life came to a tragic end in 1977, when she was battered to death in her studio.  The murder remains unsolved, but her attacker is strongly suspected to be John Wayne Glover, who she knew, and who was later convicted of the murders of six elderly women in 1989-1990 and was suspected of undertaking other murders.

Well, that sure sounds like a tale that would make a basis for an interesting novel spanning several time periods.  There is a book (Florence Broadhurst: Her Secret and Extraordinary Lives) and a film (Unfolding Florence: The Many Lives of Florence Broadhurst) about her life.  More info can be found at these websites:

Australian Dictionary of Biography
Architectural Design
Signature Prints

1 comment:

Dorte H said...

What a dramatic story!

Almost as exciting as one of yours. Thanks again for sending me The White Gallows which I enjoyed immensely.

When can we expect more about Colm McEvoy?