Frances Gertrude Cato

#452, b. 1886, d. 1966

Individual's Timeline

Birth1886Frances Gertrude Cato1
Marriage1912Frances Gertrude Cato2,3
Death of Father4 June 1935Frederick John Cato
Death of Mother20 August 1948Frances (Fanny) Bethune
Death1966Frances Gertrude Cato4

Primary events

Secondary circumstances

  • Married Name: Her married name was Kumm.
Her life was recorded thus ~~ KUMM, FRANCES GERTRUDE (1886-1966), churchwoman and philanthropist, was born on 8 April 1886 at Collingwood, Melbourne, eldest of eight children of Frederick John Cato, a Victorian-born merchant, and his wife Frances, née Bethune, who came from New Zealand. In partnership with his cousin Thomas Edwin Moran, Cato was steadily building a grocery empire. When Gertrude was 2 he bought a house at Toorak in which she was to spend much of her life.

Gertrude was educated at home until the age of 14. She then entered Methodist Ladies' College (wearing a ruby-red dress) where she was conspicuous as one of the few from wealthy homes. The Cato family was deeply Methodist, and, despite the demands of business, her father spent so much time working for the Wesleyan Church that he was 'almost its unpaid employee'. Hence Gertrude absorbed from birth the ideals of service to the Church and of philanthropic work.

Fred Cato's international missionary involvement brought to the family home in 1911 Dr Hermann Karl William Kumm, a missionary and explorer. Born in Prussia and later based in England, Kumm was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society who had traversed the north-central African divide between the Niger River and the Nile. His wife had died in 1906, leaving him with two young sons. Within a fortnight of announcing their engagement, Gertrude and Karl were married with Methodist forms on 12 January 1912 at Hawthorn.

The couple traveled to England. From there Dr Kumm continued his work for the Sudan United Mission. On the outbreak of World War I they moved to New Jersey, United States of America, where their son John and daughter Lucy (d.1934) were born. Their American life was more settled: Karl was restricted by heart disease and Lucy was a diabetic.

Dr Kumm died in 1930. His widow was distraught. Her sister Una (later Dr Porter) was sent to bring Gertrude and the children back to Australia and the family home. Mrs Kumm threw herself into Christian public life, serving the Young Women's Christian Association as national president (1945-51) and as vice-president (1951-55) of the World Y.W.C.A for the South Pacific Area. Other commitments ranged from the Australian Red Cross Society and the National Council of Women (president 1945-53) to various agencies of the Methodist Church, the Victorian Diabetic Association (president 1953-57) and the Women's Hospital, Melbourne (president 1938-42). Her greatest service was to postwar refugees and immigrants as a member (1952-61) of the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council. In 1948 she was appointed O.B.E.

Mrs Kumm possessed a loving and gracious disposition which endeared her to the many people with whom she worked around the world. Survived by her son, she died on 4 June 1966 at South Yarra and was cremated. A wing of the Royal Women's Hospital, Carlton, is named after her; the Y.W.C.A.'s Cato conference centre in Melbourne commemorates the work of Gertrude, Una and their mother.
Select Bibliography

A. Blainey, If God Prospers Me (Melb, 1990); YWCA, Association News, Mar 1947; Australian YWCA, Dec 1951, July 1966; Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 11 Sept 1947; Age (Melbourne), 6 June 1966; Herald (Melbourne), 7 June 1966. More on the resources

Author: Janet McCalman

Print Publication Details: Janet McCalman, 'Kumm, Frances Gertrude (1886 - 1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, Melbourne University Press, 2000, p. 44.

Voter Enrolements

  • In 1909 Frances Gertrude Cato was enrolled to vote at the same address in Auburn as Frederick John Cato.5

Children of Frances Gertrude Cato and Herman Karl William Kumm


  1. Digger - Vic BMD Digger databases on CD, Surname: CATO
    Given Names: Frances Gertrude
    Event: B
    Spouse Surname/Father: Frederick John
    Spouse Gvn Names/Mother: Frances BETHUNE
    Birth Place: COLL
    Death Place:
    Year: 1886
    Reg Number: 9352.
  2. Digger - Vic BMD Digger databases on CD, Surname: CATO
    Given Names: Frances Gerte
    Event: M
    Spouse Surname/Father: KUMM
    Spouse Gvn Names/Mother: Herman Karl Wm
    Age Code:
    Birth Place: MELB
    Death Place:
    Year: 1912
    Reg. Number: 946.
  3. Find my past web sites, online or, First name(s)      Frances Gerte
    Last name      Cato
    Sex      Female
    Marriage year      1912
    Spouse's first name(s)      Herman Karl William
    Spouse's last name      Kumm
    State      Victoria
    Country      Australia
    Registration number      946
    Record set      Victoria Marriages 1836-1942
    Category      Life Events (BDMs)
    Subcategory      Marriages & divorces
    Collections from      Australia & New Zealand.
  4. Ann Ringer, Look up of Vic deaths.
  5. Australian Voter Rolls 1901 - 1936, online
  6. Digger - Vic BMD Digger databases on CD, 1934/1934.
  7. "Millitary dossiers", downloaded attestation papers.