K Langloh Parker

Katie Langloh Parker (1856-1940), writer, was born on 1 May 1856 at 'Luilyl', Encounter Bay, South Australia, the home of her grandparents, Martha and Rev. Ridgway William Newland. Her parents were Henry and Sophia Field and she was christened Catherine Eliza Somerville, the fourth of eight children. Her father, overlander and pastoralist, had taken up 'Marra' station on the Darling in partnership with Edward and Andrew Chisholm. His brother-in-law Simpson Newland, author of Paving the Way, later became a partner. The Field children were educated at home by their mother - herself educated by Martha Newland, who read the Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek and of whom a son wrote: 'she was one of the deepest read of all the men and women I have met.' The Fields moved to Adelaide in 1872 and Sophia Field died in childbirth soon after. Katie at sixteen was sent with her younger sister to a small private school. On 12 January 1875 at St Peter's Anglican Church, Glenelg, she married Langloh Parker, a popular and well-known pastoralist sixteen years her senior.

'Bangate' station on the Narran in north-western New South Wales was the Parkers' home from 1879 until they were forced off the property during the late 1890s drought. They moved to a smaller nearby run, 'Grawin South', but Parker died in July 1903. In 1905 Katie made her first visit to England and on 7 November 1905 married Percy Randolph Stow, a lawyer, at St Margaret's, Westminister. On their return to Adelaide they lived at 'Gahreema', Glenelg. The Stows were both interested in books and pictures and took an active part in Adelaide's intellectual life. Percy died in 1937; Katie lived on until 27 March 1940.

From earliest childhood Katie had been familiar with the Aborigines. She was rescued by an Aboriginal girl when two of her sisters drowned in the Darling. Being childless, she had time to try to understand the environment - the vegetation, birds and people. She became interested in the Aborigines on 'Bangate', learning the language and with the aid of an interpreter recording their myths. Widely read herself, she valued these myths highly and took pains to relate them exactly as they were told to her, without bowdlerising or sentimentalising them. Australian Legendary Tales: Folk-lore of the Noongahburrahs, published under the name Mrs K. Langloh Parker (1896), and More Australian Legendary Tales (1898) were acclaimed and reprinted. The importance of her books of legends was that hers was the earliest attempt to record them seriously and at length. A new collected edition was published in one volume by Angus and Robertson in 1953 and was reprinted many times; it was chosen as Children's Book of the Year in 1954. Another edition containing the text of the two volumes exactly as originally published came out in 1978. She also wrote The Euahlayi Tribe: A Study of Aboriginal Life in Australia (1905) and two smaller collections of Aboriginal legends under the name of Catherine Stow.

Marcie Muir

Marcie Muir My Bush Book: K. Langloh Parker's 1890s story of outback station life 1982.