Ella Marion Theresa Quekett, known to her bank colleagues as ‘Queenie’, was born on 7 June 1880, the first child of Arthur Edwin Quekett and his wife Marion. Arthur’s father and uncles had been noted pioneers of microscopy and histology, but Arthur himself went into the law, working as a solicitor in London.
Ella’s younger brother Arthur was born the following year, and in 1884 another brother, John, was born. In 1900 their father was appointed Legal Assistant to the Local Government board in Ireland, and the family moved to Dublin.
Ella later returned to London, and in February 1908 took a job as a shorthand typist at London County & Westminster Bank. She was only the fifth female employee of the bank; the first four – three typists and a supervisor – had been appointed five months earlier, in September 1907.
Within a few years, the handful of female typists at the bank were joined by dozens – and then hundreds – of ‘temporary female clerks’; women who took up the work of bank clerks to replace men who had gone away to fight in the First World War. Queenie remained in the shorthand typists’ department, and in 1916 became its superintendent. She held that post for the rest of her career, until her retirement in 1935.
Queenie’s youngest brother John, a Second Lieutenant in the Black Watch, was killed in action on 31 July 1917, the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele. John was an architect, and before the war had been architectural editor of the Victoria County Histories. Queenie, who never married, later went to live with John’s widow Mary Ann at Woking, Surrey.
Queenie was an active member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment, the voluntary organisation which provided nursing services during the First World War and long after. By the 1930s, she was Commandant of the 10th City of London VAD.
At work, she became a well-known and respected figure. When the bank’s staff sports club introduced a Women’s Section in the late 1920s, Queenie was appointed its chairman, and remained in that role until her retirement.
She retired from the bank at the end of June 1935, just after her 55th birthday. Her colleagues took up a collection, presenting her with a cheque which she planned to put towards buying a car. They also gave her a book entitled How to Drive a Car. Her plans to travel were not, however, limited to England’s country roads; a cartoon drawn by a colleague to mark her retirement depicted her galloping across an Egyptian desert on a donkey, making for the pyramids in the distance, with the caption ‘So long, Queenie.’
Queenie Quekett died in 1955.