Caroline Chisholm

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Caroline Chisholm
Caroline Chisholm by Claudet.jpg
Caroline Chisholm, after a daguerreotype by Antoine Claudet (1853)
Born Caroline Jones
(1808-05-30)30 May 1808
Northampton, England
Died 25 March 1877(1877-03-25) (aged 68)
Highgate, London[1]
Occupation Humanitarian work
Known for Humanitarian work, immigration reform, assisting the local Aboriginal communities
Home town Northampton, England
Spouse(s) Archibald Chisholm[1]
Children 8 children (including Caroline Agnes Gray)
Parent(s) Caroline Jones, William Jones

Caroline Chisholm (30 May 1808 – 25 March 1877[1]) was a progressive 19th-century English humanitarian known mostly for her involvement with female immigrant welfare in Australia. She is commemorated on 16 May in the Calendar of saints of the Church of England. There are proposals for the Catholic Church to also recognise her as a saint.[2]

Early life

Caroline Chisholm came from a large family. Her father, William Jones, had married four times. His first three wives had died in childbirth and from illness. Caroline was William's sixteenth and last child. Her mother had seven children. William, who was born in Wootton, Northamptonshire, was a pig dealer who bought in and fattened pigs and sold them on. When he died in 1814, when Caroline was only six, he was able to leave his wife £500 and several properties to his twelve surviving children. Caroline was born in Northampton and lived with her family at 11 Mayorhold. When she was a young child, her father brought a poor maimed soldier into the house. He pointed out the children's obligations to the man who had fought for them.

In 1830, Caroline, then 22, married Archibald Chisholm, a Roman Catholic ten years her senior; he was an officer serving with the East India Company's Madras Army. Her husband's religion may have influenced her decision around this time to convert to his faith.[3] They were married at The Holy Sepulchre, Northampton, a Church of England church. Roman Catholic clergy could not perform recognised weddings until the Marriage Act 1836.[4]

Madras, India

Chisholm's husband returned to his regiment in Madras in January 1832. She joined him there 18 months later. Chisholm became aware that the young girls in the barracks were picking up the bad behaviour of the soldiers. In 1834 she founded the Female School of Industry for the Daughters of European Soldiers that provided a practical education for the girls. They were given instruction in reading, writing and religion, cooking, housekeeping and nursing. It was not long before the soldiers asked that their wives could also attend the school. Chisholm gave birth to two sons, Archibald and William, as well as following her husband around the Indian subcontinent.[5]

Sydney, New South Wales

Caroline Chisholm

In 1838 Captain Chisholm was granted a two-year furlough on the grounds of ill health. Rather than return to England, the family decided the climate in Australia would be better for his health. They set sail for Sydney, New South Wales, aboard the Emerald Isle, arriving there in October 1838. The family settled at nearby Windsor.[3] On trips to Sydney, Chisholm and her husband became aware of the difficult conditions that faced immigrants arriving in the colony. They were particularly concerned for the young women who were arriving without any money, friends or family or jobs to go to, and many ended up turning to prostitution to make ends meet. Captain Chisholm returned to his regiment in 1840, but encouraged his wife to continue her philanthropic efforts. She originally set up a home in Sydney for young women, and organised other homes in several rural centres. The home was soon extended to help families and young men.

The East Maitland Heritage Walk takes in 28 sites of historical interest, including Caroline Chisholm Cottage. In 1842 Chisholm rented two terraces and converted them into a single cottage to shelter homeless immigrants in the district. It is the only surviving building in NSW so directly associated with Chisholm. Built in the 1830s, the cottage offers a rare example of early working-class housing in New South Wales.

During the seven years Chisholm was in Australia she placed over 11,000 people in homes and jobs. She became a very well-known woman who was very much admired. She was requested to give evidence before two Legislative Council Committees. Chisholm carried out her work in New South Wales without accepting money from individuals or individual organisations, as she wanted to act independently and did not want to be dependent upon any religious or political body. The girls and families Chisholm helped came from different backgrounds and held different religious beliefs. Money was raised for the homes through subscription. Her husband was invalided out of the Army and returned to Australia in 1845.[6]

Migration reforms and the Family Colonisation Loan Society

Before Chisholm and her husband returned to England in 1846, they toured the colony, at their own expense, collecting over 600 statements from those who had already settled in NSW.[3] Chisholm believed the only way to encourage emigration was for prospective emigrants to read letters from those already living in the colony. In England the couple published some of these statements in a pamphlet Comfort for the Poor – Meat Three Times a Day. Charles Dickens also used some of the statements in his then new magazine called Household Words. One of their daughters, Caroline Agnes, was born during the couple's time in London.

Chisholm gave evidence before two House of Lords select committees and gained support for some of her initiatives, including free passage to Australia for the wives and children of former convicts, and for the children that through necessity emigrants had left behind in England.

In 1849, with the support of Lord Shaftesbury, Sir Sidney Herbert and Wyndham Harding FRS, Chisholm founded the Family Colonisation Loan Society from her home in Charlton Crescent in Islington. The Society’s aim was to lend half the cost of the fare, the emigrant finding the other half of the cost, which was to be refunded after two years in Australia. Chisholm held regular meetings at Charlton Crescent giving very practical advice to emigrants.The Society initially found accommodation on board emigrant ships, and then chartered its own ships to transport the emigrants. It was Chisholm's insistence that the Society's ships have better accommodation that led to the upgrading of the Passenger Acts. Archibald Chisholm returned to Australia in 1851 to act as Honorary Colonial Agent to help the newly arrived emigrants and to collect repayment of loans. By 1854 the Society had assisted more than 3,000 people to travel to Australia. Chisholm gave emigration lectures throughout Britain, and toured France and Italy, where she collected her son William from the Propaganda College; he had been studying to become a Priest. Chisholm had an audience with Pope Pius IX, who gave her a Papal Medal and bust of herself.

Return to Australia and later life

In 1854 Chisholm returned to Australia aboard the Ballarat. She toured the Victorian goldfields and was appalled by the conditions en route. She proposed the construction of shelter sheds about a days walk apart for prospectors and their families to travel to the goldfields, a project that received support from the government. Chisholm continued to work in Melbourne travelling to and from the home and store the Chisholms had purchased in Kyneton. She joined the family there three years later. Archibald was a Magistrate during his time in Kyneton and the two elder sons helped him run the store.

Due to Chisholm’s ill health the family moved back to Sydney in 1858. Her health improved and at the end of 1859 beginning of 1860 Chisholm gave four political lectures in which she called for land to be made available so that migrant families could establish small farms, a move she saw as providing greater stability in the colonies. Chisholm also wrote a novelette Little Joe that was serialised in the local paper.[7]

Archibald senior accompanied the younger children back to England in 1865. Archibald junior accompanied his mother back home in 1866. Chisholm died on 25 March 1877. Archibald died in August that year. Five of their eight children survived to mourn their deaths.

Chisholm died in London and her body was brought to her home town, Northampton, where it rested overnight in the Cathedral of Our Lady and St Thomas. She and her husband are buried in the same grave in Billing Road Cemetery.


1967 Australian five-dollar note reverse featuring Chisholm
Plaque at 32 Charlton Place, Islington, London

A number of educational facilities in Australia and England have been named after Chisholm,[8][9][10][11][12][13] as well as a suburb of Canberra[14] and a federal electoral division.[15] The Federal Government Department of Human Services' headquarters, located in Tuggeranong (ACT), is named after her (the building is known as the CCC, i.e. Caroline Chisholm Centre). Chisholm has also appeared on Australian stamps[16] and banknotes;[17] she appeared on the $5 note, 1967–91.[18]

In Charles Dickens's novel Bleak House the character of Mrs Jellyby is said to be an amalgamation of three women of the period, including Chisholm.[19] There is also the novel Streets of dust: a novel based on the life of Caroline Chisholm (1993) by Lola Irish, Kirribilli, N.S.W: Eldorado. ISBN 1-86412-001-0.

On the front of 32 Charlton Place, Islington, London, a blue plaque commemorating Chisholm living there, was erected in 1983 by Greater London Council.[20]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "TIME-LINE — CAROLINE AND ARCHIBALD CHISHOLM" (PDF). April 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 November 2008. Retrieved 24 August 2009.
  2. ^ The Age: Chisholm's supporters push for sainthood 24 October 2007 Retrieved on 2008-05-28
  3. ^ a b c Iltis, Judith. "Chisholm, Caroline (1808–1877)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, published first in hardcopy 1966
  4. ^ Walker, Carole, A Saviour of Living Cargoes – The Life and Work of Caroline Chisholm, (first published in Australia in 2009 by Australia Scholarly Publishing; republished in Australia 2011 by Connor Court Publishing; UK edition published by Wolds Publishing, 2010: ISBN 978-0956472403)
  5. ^ Walker, Carole, See Chapter on India and Appendix 5 for Rules and Regulations of the Female School of Industry
  6. ^ O.M. Flynn, Caroline Chisholm, the emigrants' friend, Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society 3 (2) (1970), 1-7.
  7. ^ Chisholm, Caroline, ed. by John Moran, Radical in Bonnet and Shawl: Four Political Lectures; and Little Joe. (Australia: Preferential Publications, 1994 and 1991)
  8. ^ Chisholm Catholic College. Retrieved on 2011-09-22.
  9. ^ Caroline Chisholm College. (2011-08-23). Retrieved on 2011-09-22.
  10. ^ Caroline Chisholm School. Retrieved on 2011-09-22.
  11. ^ Chisholm College – La Trobe University. Retrieved on 2011-09-22.
  12. ^ Chisholm Institute of TAFE Archived 28 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved on 2011-09-22.
  13. ^ Caroline Chisholm Education Foundation. (2011-08-03). Retrieved on 2011-09-22.
  14. ^ Place name search Archived 27 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine..
  15. ^ 2007 Election:Profile of the Electoral division of Chisholm. (2010-10-07). Retrieved on 2011-09-22.
  16. ^ Australian Stamp Bulletin No 277, Oct–Dec 2004, p. 21. Retrieved on 2011-09-22.
  17. ^ Museum of Australian Currency Notes: Australia's First Decimal Currency Notes Archived 22 August 2005 at the Wayback Machine.. (1966-02-14). Retrieved on 2011-09-22.
  18. ^ - R202
  19. ^ Walker, Carole, A Saviour of Living Cargoes, see pages 104-6
  20. ^ "A-Z of Islington's Plaques". Islington Council. Archived from the original on 22 October 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2014.

Further reading

  • De Vries, Susanna. Strength of spirit: pioneering women of achievement from First Fleet to Federation, Millennium Books, 1995. ISBN 0-7022-1346-2
  • Lake, M./ McGrath, A. et al. (1994), "Creating a Nation", Viking: Ringwood
  • Hoban, Mary. Fifty One Pieces Of Wedding Cake. A Biography Of Caroline Chisholm. Lowden, Kilmore Victoria, 1973
  • Caroline Chisholm at The Australian Women's Register
  • Caroline Chisholm at the Australian Dictionary of Biography online edition
  • Culture Victoria – Caroline Chisholm’s Scrapbook
  • Mennell, Philip (1892). "Wikisource link to Chisholm, Caroline". The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co. Wikisource 
  •  Boase, George Clement (1887). "Chisholm, Caroline". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 10. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  • Stevens-Chambers, Brenda, Friend and Foe: Caroline Chisholm and the Women of Kyneton 1840-2004 (Springfield & Hart, 2004)
  • Kiddle, Margaret, Caroline Chisholm (Melbourne University Press. First published 1950; second edition 1957; abridged edition 1969; reprinted with new introduction by Patricia Grimshaw, 1990)
  • Stinson, Rodney, See, Judge, Act: Caroline Chisholm’s Lay Apostolate (Sydney: Yorkcross Pty Ltd, 2009)
  • Stinson, Rodney, Unfeigned Love: Historical Accounts of Caroline Chisholm and her Work (Sydney: Yorkcross Pty Ltd, 2008)
  • Sutherland, Wendy (1967). Caroline Chisholm. Great Australians. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
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