June 15, 2007
The folklore-collecting career of Mary Celestia Parler is many times overshadowed by the work of her more famous husband, Vance Randolph. Parler, a professor of English and folklore at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), was a founder of the Arkansas Folklore Society. In 1949, she developed the university’s first folklore course and became director of the UA Folklore Research Project. Under her direction, 442 reels of recorded songs and many other materials were collected. She retired from her professorship in 1975 and died in 1981. The work of Parler was revisited in 2005 when the University Libraries’ Special Collections department hosted a two-day conference, “A Collector in Her Own Right: Reassessing Mary Celestia Parler’s Contribution to Ozark Folklore,” bringing together collectors, scholars, and former students of Parler to discuss her life and work.