Parker, Catherine Langloh (c. 1856–1940)
Parker, Catherine Langloh (c. 1856–1940)
Australian writer who published the first serious studies on Aboriginal culture. Name variations: Katie Langloh Parker or K. Langloh Parker; Catherine Stow. Born Catherine Field on May 1, 1856 (some sources cite 1855), in Encounter Bay, South Australia; died on March 27, 1940, in Adelaide, South Australia; daughter of Henry Field (an overlander and pastoralist) and Sophia Field; married Langloh Parker (a pastoralist), on January 12, 1875 (died 1903); married Percy Randolph Stow (a lawyer), on November 7, 1905; no children.
Published the first systematic description of Aborigine legends and indigenous folkways (1896); posthumously awarded a Children's Book of the Year Award for published collection of her studies (1954).
Australian Legendary Tales: Folklore of the Noongahburrahs (1896); More Australian Legendary Tales (1898); The Euhlayi Tribe: A Study of Aboriginal Life in Australia (1905); The Walkabouts of the Wur-Run-Nah (1918); Woggheeguy: Australian Aboriginal Legends (1930).
Living in rural South Australia in the 1860s as the fourth of eight children, Catherine Parker befriended indigenous Aborigines who became her childhood companions. In a tragic moment, Parker was rescued from drowning by an Aborigine girl in an incident in which two of Parker's sisters died. The trauma of that experience helped forge her later dedication to learning more about Aborigine culture and preserving information about their vanishing traditions.
Parker, known to her family and friends as Katie, initially grew up the rural Darling Downs region of Queensland, where she was educated at home by her mother Sophia Field . Sophia herself had been well schooled in world literature and passed this interest along to her daughter, who became an avid reader. The family moved to Adelaide, South Australia, and soon thereafter Sophia died in childbirth. Parker was 16 when their father sent her and her younger sister to a small private school. A few years later, in January 1875, she married Langloh Parker, a pastoralist like her father. The Parkers moved to Bangate in the northwestern region of New South Wales in 1879. While there, Parker began to involve herself with local Aborigine groups, learning their language and carefully recording their traditional myths through an interpreter. Accumulating a good deal of information, she first published the material in Australian Legendary Tales: Folklore of the Noongahburrahs in 1896. This book represented the first systematic treatment of Aborigine culture in print. She soon followed with another volume, More Australian Legendary Tales, in 1898.
By the late 1890s drought had taken its toll, and the Parkers moved to another location in New South Wales, where Langloh died in 1903. Journeying to England shortly afterwards, Parker met Westminster lawyer Percy Randolph Stow. They married in November 1905 and returned to Adelaide, where they became involved in local intellectual circles and she continued to write. Among her later books were The Euhlayi Tribe: A Study of Aboriginal Life in Australia (1905), The Walkabouts of the Wur-Run-Nah (1918), and Woggheeguy: Australian Aboriginal Legends (1930), the latter two of which were published under the name Catherine Stow. The first person to objectively and systematically record at length and publish traditional legends of the Aborigines, Parker died in 1940. Australian Legendary Tales, a volume of her studies edited by Henrietta Drake-Brockman and published in 1953, won a Children's Book of the Year award in 1954, and her first two books were republished in 1978 in their original form. A previously unpublished manuscript, My Bush Book: K. Langloh Parker's 1890s Story of Outback Station Life, was published in 1982 with a background and biography of Parker by Marcie Muir .
Buck, Claire, ed. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.
Radi, Heather, ed. 200 Australian Women: A Redress Anthology. NSW, Australia: Women's Redress Press, 1988.
Wilde, William H., Joy Hooten, and Barry Andrews. The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature. Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press, 1985.
Richard C. C. , freelance writer, Eugene, Oregon