Mary Jean Gilmore, née Cameron, was born at Mary Vale, Woodhouselee, in New South Wales, Australia, the daughter of a farming family. During her childhood, her family moved frequently around New South Wales as her father changed jobs. At age 16, she began her career as a schoolteacher, and by 1890 was working at Neutral Bay Public School in Sydney. She had a close relationship at this time with writer Henry Lawson, who influenced her education and writing. She supported labor politics and assisted journalist William Lane and the New Australia movement. In 1895, she resigned from teaching and went to help found a utopian colony in Paraguay, where she married William Alexander Gilmore, with whom she had a son. In 1902, they moved to England and then returned to Australia. In 1907, she began her long connexion with the Australian Worker newspaper. Over the years, she used it as a platform for her writings on a wide range of social and economic reforms, such as votes for women, pensions for seniors, and improved treatment for Aboriginal Australians. Her first collection of poems, Marri'd, and other Verses, was published in 1910. Her second volume, The Passionate Heart (1918), reflected her horror at World War I. She gave the royalties from this book to the soldiers blinded in the war. In 1922, she published a collection of essays, Hound of the Road, her first prose work. Other books from that era included The Wild Swan (1930), The Rue Tree (1931), and Under the Wilgas (1932). Two memoirs, Old Days, Old Ways: a Book of Recollections and More Recollections were published in 1934 and 1935. In 1937, she was made a Dame of the British Empire. From 1952, she was associated with the Communist newspaper Tribune, for which she wrote a column called "Arrows" that reflected her pacifism and other causes in Australian and world affairs. In 1954, as she approached age 90, she published her final volume of poetry, Fourteen Men. A national celebrity, she made appearances on radio and television.