By Siobhan O'Brien
Florence Broadhurst, the one-time chanteuse of Shanghai, Bond road 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 attention-grabbing girl at the back of the hand-printed brocades.
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Extra resources for A Life by Design: The Art and Lives of Florence Broadhurst
QX5 3/9/04 10:10 AM Page 15 Bookhouse Murder, 1977 John Lang, a one-time employee, described Florence as ‘nervous yet lonely. ’ Peter Leis, another employee, described his former boss as almost impossible to work for. He painted a picture of an eccentric woman who responded to flattery, but would talk to a kerosene heater ‘as if it were a lover—referring to it as “beautiful” or “terrific”. I was a bit frightened of her—most people were, but you could always sweet-talk her. ’ Leis, who attended a number of work-related functions with his boss, also claimed that if she attended an event that she felt was ‘beneath her’, she would make remarks such as ‘these aren’t my people’.
Not only did she sign up as an active member of the British Women’s Association, whose agenda was to replicate British home life in Shanghai, but she maintained that she was British for the next fifty years. When she was back living in Sydney from 1949 onwards, reviews in the Australian Women’s Weekly, the Sunday Telegraph, the Australian Magazine and other periodicals regularly described her as ‘an Englishwoman who came to Australia’ and Florence did nothing to dispel the untruth. In fact she courted it.
Mascara ran down her face. Her fingers had been crushed to a pulp. Fragments of bloodstained timber, a gold earring, a false eyelash and a segment of orange lay on the floor nearby. Another hearing aid lay between her legs. Two metres above Florence’s body was an impression of the fabric of her pantsuit on the fibro wall of the toilet. The bloodied imprint suggested that her killer had either rammed or thrown her body with brutal force into the wall. On the opposite wall there was a blood-stained impression of her head.