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Winifred Steger Winifred Steger i(A58147 works by) (birth name: Winifred Oaten) (a.k.a. Mrs Karum Bux; Bebe Zatoon)
Also writes as: Winifred the Washerwoman ; Sapphire Bill ; Winifred Stegar
Born: Established: 1882 London,
United Kingdom (UK),
Western Europe, Europe,
; Died: Ceased: 1981 South Australia,
Gender: Female
Arrived in Australia: 1891
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Born in Lambeth, England, Winifred Steger and her father migrated to Australia, and took up land on the Darling Downs. Their life was one of extreme hardship. Her marriage to Charles Steger in 1899 when she was barely 17 was an unhappy one, and when she finally left him she was forced to leave her four children behind.
Seven years later she married the great love of her life, the Indian hawker Ali Ackba Nuby. They lived in northern NSW, then took up camel-driving, based at Marree and later Oodnadatta in SA. She adopted the Moslem faith.
While their three children were still young Ali died, leaving her struggling to support her family by taking in washing. In 1925 she entered a marriage of convenience with camel driver Karum Bux, and with him she undertook a journey to Mecca, the basis of her partly fictitious 'autobiography', Life with Ali. She later travelled through northern India, Pakistan and Afghanistan with a medical team, encouraging women to seek medical assistance.

Winifred Steger had very little education, but at the age of fifteen she found a copy of the English magazine Life on a country road, and inspired by what she saw, wrote her first story and had it accepted for publication. This encouraged her, and she wrote and published a number of other pieces. She wrote for The Register under the title of 'Star Dust and Soap Bubbles' (1929-1931) and anonymously wrote two stories a week for nine years for The Chronicle under the title 'The Tales of Sapphire Bill'. Her Life with Ali, first published as the serial 'Arabian Days: The Wanderings of Winifred the Washerwoman' in The Register (1928-9) was later published in 1969 under the name Winifred Stegar. She also had three novels serialised in the Northern Argus (Clare, SA) and wrote another eleven novels between 1966 and 1977 which, however, she was unable to get published.
Steger maintained to the end her fictitious account of travelling to Mecca with her Indian husband named Ali Mahomed Stegar. The true account of her life was revealed in 2002 by Hilarie Lindsay in her biography, The Washerwoman's Dream.

Most Referenced Works


  • Steger claimed to have been born in 1879.
  • Steger used the name 'Stegar' for her partly fictitious 'autobiography', Life With Ali.
Last amended 20 Dec 2007 15:02:04
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