Woman Stow, Cathrine Eliza Sommerville (Katie) (1856 - 1940)

Encounter Bay, South Australia, Australia
Glenelg, South Australia, Australia
Ethnographer, Pastoralist and Writer
Alternative Names
  • Field, Katie (Maiden, 1856 - 1875)
  • Langloh Parker, K. (Pen name, 1905 - 1940)
  • Langloh Parker, Katie (First Married Name, 1875 - 1905)

Written by Ann Standish, The University of Melbourne

Katie Field was born in 1856 at Encounter Bay, South Australia, to the pastoralists Henry and Sophia (nee Newland) Field. She grew up largely on her father's large property, Marra, on the banks of the Darling River in northern New South Wales. During this time, two of Katie's sisters drowned in the river, but she was saved by an Aboriginal nursemaid, an event that she would later claim as pivotal to her eventual work as an early recorder of Aboriginal myths, legends and language. In 1872, the family moved back to Adelaide, shortly before Sophia Field died, after giving birth to her eighth child. Katie, who had previously been educated at home by her mother and governesses, attended a girls' school in Adelaide for a short time.

In 1875, at the age of nineteen, Katie married Langloh Parker, a pastoralist fifteen years her senior. In 1879, Langloh Parker bought the leasehold to Bangate, a vast station on the Narran River, near Walgett in New South Wales and the couple moved there to live for the next twenty years.

Unable to have children, Katie, by way of finding an alternative occupation, turned her interest on the local Indigenous people, the Yuwalaraay, who lived on the Narran River, the lands that now made up Bangate being their traditional country. A general interest turned into a systematic study, where she learned language, gained the trust of the people and collected their stories. Under the name K Langloh Parker, she published two volumes of collected stories, mainly from the Eulayahi people, Legendary Tales and More Legendary Tales. In 1905, she would publish a more clearly ethnological study, The Eualahi People.

Katie Langloh Parker was a leader in recognising the value of Aboriginal stories and language, and in seeking these out in a methodological and respectful way. Unlike many station observers, she had a keen sense of ethics about her collecting, checking her sources and naming her informants. While her activities were undoubted enabled by the colonial situation, she showed an unusual sensitivity to the people whose stories she was retelling.

The Parkers were forced to leave Bangate in the late 1890s, when, after years of drought, the land would not longer sustain them. They moved to Adelaide, where Langloh Parker died in 1903. Two years later while on a trip to London, Katie met and married lawyer Percival Randolph Stow, the son of a prominent South Australian judge and parliamentarian Randolph Stow. The couple returned to live in Glenelg, Adelaide, and participated in the city's literary and artistic activities. Katie published one more volume of stories from the Yuwalaraay people, Woggeehuy, in 1934. It was illustrated by Nina Heysen, daughter of renowned South Australian artist Hans Heysen. Katie died in 1940. Over forty years later, her memoir of her years at Bangate, previously unpublished apart from sections that had appeared in The Eualahi People, was published in an illustrated edition, edited and annotated by Marcie Muir.

Published Resources


  • Stow, Cathrine, Woggheeguy: Australian Aboriginal Legends, F. W. Preece, Adelaide, South Australia, 1930. Details

Book Sections

  • Evans, Julie, 'Katie Langloh Parker and the Beginnings of Ethnography in Australia', in Davis, Fiona, Musgrove, Nell and Smart, Judith (eds), Founders, Firsts and Feminists: Women Leaders in Twentieth-Century Australia, The University of Melbourne: eScholarship Research Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, 2011, pp. 13-26. http://www.womenaustralia.info/leaders/fff/pdfs/parker.pdf. Details

Online Resources