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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Parker, Dame Marjorie Alice (Margot) (1900–1991)

by Stefan Petrow

This article was published online in 2014

Dame Marjorie Collett Parker (1900-1991), philanthropist and community leader, was born on 30 June 1900 at Ballarat, Victoria, second of eight children of Victorian-born parents Walter Collett Shoppee, salesman, and his wife Victoria Alice, née Tilley. Educated in Victoria, in 1920 Marjorie gained employment at Burnie in north-west Tasmania as a millinery specialist; by 1921 she was conducting her own exclusive salon, La Salon. On 12 June 1926, at St John’s Church of England, Devonport, she married salesman James Maxwell Parker. They moved to Launceston in 1935.

Quietly spoken and always well dressed, Parker was a regular at the races and enjoyed playing golf. When her husband joined the Australian Imperial Force in 1940, she commenced a ‘new life’ (Clayton 1965, 6) of community work, beginning with her election to the Launceston committee of the Australian Comforts Fund in January 1941. In 1942 radio 7EX asked her to ‘help stimulate the war effort by doing special broadcasts’ (Clayton 1965, 6). Under the name ‘Margot’ she gave weekly, thirty-minute radio broadcasts on women’s issues and, from 1944, wrote a regular column for the Examiner newspaper. A gifted organiser and natural tactician, she kept interest in the war effort alive ‘by planning new ideas and new schemes’ (Examiner 14 July 1945, 9), enabling the 7EX Women’s Association, of which she was president, to distribute almost £40,000 to patriotic and charitable causes during the war.

Identifying a need for a place where women could learn practical skills, and conduct charitable fund-raising activities, after the war Parker was ‘unremitting’ (Examiner 12 July 1946, 6) in her efforts to bring about the 7EX Women’s Centre in Launceston. She helped to establish Launceston’s first crèche in 1948 (later the Dame Marjorie Parker Crèche), and from 1947 to 1975 organized the 7EX Children’s Christmas Fair, raising more than $300,000 for thirty-three charities. The driving force behind 7EX’s support for the building of a Girl Guide headquarters in Launceston in 1949, she also served as public relations adviser (1954-68) to the Girl Guides Association. In 1952 she formed a 7EX Women’s Association hospital auxiliary to comfort female surgical patients at the Launceston General Hospital.

A founder of the Soroptimists Club for business and professional women in Launceston in 1949, Parker became the first president (1951) of the Divisional Union of Tasmanian Soroptimist Clubs. She was an active member of the National Council of Women, serving as deputy chairman (1960-64); she was made a life member in 1974. Reflecting a special interest in the welfare of disabled children, Parker was an executive member of the Society for the Care of Crippled Children (life member from 1973), the Tasmanian Division of the Miss Australia Quest (1964-71), and the Acropolis Club (which she formed in 1969), all of which raised money for this cause. She increased public knowledge of migrant needs through radio broadcasts and as public relations officer (1965-69) of the Tasmanian Good Neighbour Council. She also worked for the elderly, leading a Red Cross committee to establish the first Tasmanian Meals on Wheels service in March 1960.

Parker received many honours, awards, and life memberships. She was appointed MBE in 1950, OBE in 1970, and DBE in 1976. That year she also received the Australian Red Cross Distinguished Service award; she was made a life member of the society in 1979. Withal, Dame Marjorie regarded her ‘real reward’ as finding ‘her niche in life’ (Clayton 1965, 6): she counted herself ‘lucky to have had a knack for raising money’ (Haswell 1976, 3). In 1984 she was granted Freedom of the City of Launceston.

Approachable, charming, diplomatic, and kind, Parker brought out the best in those around her. Predeceased by her husband (d. 1976) and survived by their son, she died on 18 February 1991 at Launceston. She was inducted into the Launceston Hall of Fame in 2007, and is further commemorated by the Dame Marjorie Parker Memorial Award at the University of Tasmania, funded by Soroptimist International of Launceston.

Research edited by Rani Kerin

Select Bibliography

  • Clayton, Jack. ‘Launceston’s Community Millionairess.’ Express (Launceston), 17 July 1965, 6
  • ‘Work Hard for Patriotic Funds.’ Examiner (Launceston), 14 July 1945, 9
  • ‘Opening of 7EX Women’s Centre by Mayor.’ Examiner (Launceston), 12 July 1946, 6
  • ‘After 29 Years It’s Time to Step Down.’ Examiner (Launceston), 21 November 1975, 4
  • Haswell, Jan. ‘There’s Nothing Like Our Dame Marj.’ Examiner (Launceston), 31 December 1976, 3
  • Polonsky, Mark. ‘Legend of Local Radio.’ Examiner (Launceston), 22 February 1991, 6
  • Winter, Gillian. The Hand of Friendship: A History of the Good Neighbour Council of Tasmania 1949-1992. Hobart: Good Neighbour Council of Tasmania, 1993.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Stefan Petrow, 'Parker, Dame Marjorie Alice (Margot) (1900–1991)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2014, accessed online 23 September 2020.

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