Marcella Cameron

Marcella Mary Cameron (1879-1948), factory manager, was born on 29 December 1879 at Warwick, Queensland, daughter of Catherine (born Fitzgerald) and Duncan McMaster Cameron, a Scottish immigrant. Duncan Cameron became well-known in Queensland as the journalist 'Ben Bolt'. He was editor of the local newspaper when Marcella, aged seventeen, began earning her own living as an assistant in the Toowoomba School of Arts.

She moved to Brisbane and worked as a secretary, first for Vacuum Oil Co. and then for Enoggera and Virginia Brick and Pipe Co. In 1904 she gave birth to a daughter, Enid Clare, whom she brought up as sole parent, supporting herself and her daughter. With the company in difficulties in its early years, Marcella was transferred from the city office to take charge of the brick and pipe works at Virginia 13 km from the city. There she learnt every aspect of the procedure, assessing the raw clay and supervising tradesmen and labourers at all stages of production, including the precision firing in the kilns. When the price of bricks fell in the 1920s the works specialised in glazed earthenware pipes. Marcella Cameron secured a City Council contract for the supply of 10,000 pounds worth of pipes for the sewerage of Brisbane.

Under her efficient management the works flourished, operating seven kilns and employing 60 men. Her technical knowledge was outstanding and her advice was always sought to eliminate flaws or solve production problems. A Brisbane Courier Mail report entitled 'Woman Bosses 60 Men' (the writer obviously found the situation quaint) reveals a woman proud of her professional ability and achievements, with a high level of organisational ability and technical knowledge.

By the late 1920s the financial position of the Virginia Pipe Works was sound enough for Marcella Cameron to devise a scheme to protect jobs during the depression; her organisation of the work then meant that all employees kept their jobs and earned a living during the depression. This achievement gave her a legendary quality in the local community as well as ensuring that the pipeworks stayed in operation, producing high quality earthenware.

Marcella Cameron died in 1948 leaving a daughter and two grandchildren. Only a few documents, and fewer people, remain to give evidence of an outstanding career in business management, attributed at the time to the skill, energy and dynamic personality of this woman.

Lenore Coltheart