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Katherine Mansfield

1898-1899

Katherine Mansfield was born Kathleen Beauchamp in 1888 at Tinakori Road. Her father was an up-and-coming businessman and the family moved to Karori when she was four. She attended Karori village school and in 1898 started at Wellington Girls’ College. Her first publication, ‘Enna Blake’, appeared in theHigh School Reporter the same year. In 1899 she and her sisters moved to Miss Swainson’s school in Clifton Terrace, and in 1903 went to London where both girls attended Queen’s College. Mansfield returned to Wellington for a couple of miserable but productive years from 1906 to 1908 during which she went on a camping trip to the Urewera district which she used as a setting for her story ‘The Woman at the Store’. In 1908 she left New Zealand for Europe never to return. She died of tuberculosis in Fontainebleau near Paris in 1923.

Mansfield is considered one of the most important writers of the modernist movement of the early twentieth century. Several of her stories concern her Wellington childhood. ‘Prelude’ describes the family’s move to Karori; ‘The Doll’s House’ the Karori community; ‘The Wind Blows’ a typical southerly day; ‘The Voyage’ a trip to Picton on the ferry; ‘At the Bay’ a day in the life of a family at the beach at Days Bay and Eastbourne. ‘Her First Ball’ and ‘The Garden Party’ are based on family social occasions typical of late colonial Wellington.