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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 have been proposals for the Catholic Church to recognise her as a saint.[2]

Caroline Chisholm
Caroline Chisholm by Claudet.jpg
Caroline Chisholm, after a daguerreotype by Antoine Claudet (1853)
Caroline Jones

(1808-05-30)30 May 1808
Northampton, England
Died25 March 1877(1877-03-25) (aged 68)
Highgate, London,[1] England
OccupationHumanitarian work
Known forHumanitarian work, immigration reform
Home townNorthampton, England
Spouse(s)Archibald Chisholm[1]
Children8 children (including Caroline Agnes Gray)
Parent(s)Caroline Jones, William Jones

Early lifeEdit

Caroline Jones was born in Northampton and lived with her family at 11 Mayorhold. She 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. He died in 1814, when Caroline was only six; he was able to leave his wife £500 and to leave several properties to his twelve surviving children. When Caroline was a young child, her father brought a poor maimed soldier into the house and pointed out the children's obligations to the man who had fought for them.[citation needed]

On 27 December 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, IndiaEdit

Chisholm's husband returned to his regiment in Madras in January 1832. She joined him there 18 months later. Chisholm became aware that 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 WalesEdit

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.

In March 1842 Chisholm rented two terraced dwellings in East Maitland and converted them into a single cottage used as a hostel for homeless immigrants who travelled to the Hunter region in search of work. Now called Caroline Chisholm Cottage, it is the only 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.[6]

During the seven years Chisholm was in Australia she placed over 11,000 people in homes and jobs. She became a well-known woman and 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.[7]

Migration reforms and the Family Colonisation Loan SocietyEdit

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 Household Words. One of their daughters, Caroline Agnes, was born in 1848 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), which was to be refunded after two years in Australia. Chisholm held regular meetings at Charlton Crescent giving 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 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 where 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 lifeEdit

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 day's 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 and 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.[8]

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 and her husband died in August that year. Five of their eight children survived their parents.

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
The Chisholm Memorial Church at Breadalbane, New South Wales
Caroline Chisholm Centre in Tuggeranong (ACT)

On 32 Charlton Place, Islington, London, a blue plaque commemorating Chisholm living there, was erected in 1983 by Greater London Council.[9]

The Chisholm Memorial Church (St Silas' Anglican church) at Breadalbane, New South Wales was founded in 1937.

A number of educational facilities in Australia and England have been named after Chisholm,[10][11][12][13][14][15] as well as a suburb of Canberra[16] and a federal electoral division.[17] 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[18] and banknotes;[19] she appeared on the $5 note, 1967–91.[20]

The Caroline Chisholm Society is an Australian charitable organisation, established in 1969, that provides support and assistance to pregnant women and parents with young children.[21]

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.[22]

Caroline, a musical about her time in Australia by Peter N. Pinne and Don Battye, premiered in Melbourne in 1971.[23] 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.

See alsoEdit


  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. ^ "Caroline Chisholm Cottage". New South Wales State Heritage Register. Office of Environment and Heritage. H00500. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  7. ^ O.M. Flynn, Caroline Chisholm, the emigrants' friend, Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society 3 (2) (1970), 1-7.
  8. ^ Chisholm, Caroline, ed. by John Moran, Radical in Bonnet and Shawl: Four Political Lectures; and Little Joe. (Australia: Preferential Publications, 1994 and 1991)
  9. ^ "A-Z of Islington's Plaques". Islington Council. Archived from the original on 22 October 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  10. ^ Chisholm Catholic College. Retrieved on 2011-09-22.
  11. ^ Caroline Chisholm College. (2011-08-23). Retrieved on 2011-09-22.
  12. ^ Caroline Chisholm School. Retrieved on 2011-09-22.
  13. ^ Chisholm College – La Trobe University. Retrieved on 2011-09-22.
  14. ^ Chisholm Institute of TAFE Archived 28 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2011-09-22.
  15. ^ Caroline Chisholm Education Foundation. (2011-08-03). Retrieved on 2011-09-22.
  16. ^ Place name search Archived 27 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ 2007 Election:Profile of the Electoral division of Chisholm. (2010-10-07). Retrieved on 2011-09-22.
  18. ^ Australian Stamp Bulletin No 277, Oct–Dec 2004, p. 21. Retrieved on 2011-09-22.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ - R202
  21. ^ "About us". Caroline Chisholm Society. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  22. ^ Walker, Carole, A Saviour of Living Cargoes, see pages 104-6
  23. ^ "Concerning the lady on the $5 note". The Canberra Times. 45, (12, 766). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 23 March 1971. p. 17. Retrieved 10 May 2019 – via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)

Further readingEdit