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Caroline Chisholm

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Caroline Chisholm

Caroline Chisholm
Born Caroline Jones
(1808-05-30)30 May 1808
Northampton, England
Died 25 March 1877(1877-03-25) (aged 68)
Cause of death Deadly illness
Occupation Humanitarian work
Known for Humanitarian work, immigration reform, aboriginal help
Home town Northampton, England
Religion Anglicanism, Catholicism
Spouse(s) Archibald Chisholm[1]
Children 8 children
Awards medal

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 1
  • Madras, India 2
  • Sydney, New South Wales 3
  • Migration reforms and the Family Colonization Loan Society 4
  • Return to Australia and later life 5
  • Commemoration 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8

Early life

Caroline Jones (Chisholm) came from a very large family. Her father, William Jones, had been married four times. She came from a 16 people family and he was the last and 16th child. His previous wives had died in childbirth and from illness. Caroline was William’s sixteenth and last child. Caroline, her mother, had seven children. William, who was born in Wootton, a village just south of Northampton, was a pig dealer who bought in and fattened pigs and sold them on. He did not own vast areas of land, merely gardens, yards and allotments. By the time 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 Caroline 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. There is little doubt that this would have had an effect upon the young child, and something she would have remembered in later life. Caroline was 22 in 1830 when she married Archibald Chisholm, a Roman Catholic ten years her senior, serving with East India Company Army. It is believed that Caroline converted to her husband’s faith at this time. They were married at the Anglican Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Northampton. The Roman Catholic clergy at that time were not legally empowered to perform wedding services.[3]

Madras, India

Archibald returned to his regiment in Madras, India in January 1832. Caroline joined him there 18 months later. Caroline became aware that the young girls in the barracks were picking up the bad behaviour of the soldiers. She appealed to the Governor of Madras for assistance in establishing a school. In 1834 Caroline 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. Caroline gave birth to two sons, Archibald and William, as well as following her husband around the Indian subcontinent.[4]

Sydney, New South Wales

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

  • 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 Chisolm at the Australian Dictionary of Biography online edition
  • Culture Victoria – Caroline Chisholm’s Scrapbook
  •  Boase, George Clement (1887). "Chisholm, Caroline". In  
  • 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. 

Further reading

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


On the front of 32 Charlton Place, Islington, London is a blue plaque commemorating Chisholm.[17]

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 Caroline Chisholm.[16]

A number of educational facilities in Australia and England have been named after Caroline Chisholm,[6][7][8][9][10][11] as well as a suburb of Canberra[12] and a federal electoral division.[13] 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); DHS is Australia's welfare agency ( Chisholm has also appeared on Australian stamps[14] and banknotes.[15]


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

Due to Caroline’s ill health the family moved back to Sydney in 1858. Her health improved and at the end of 1859 beginning of 1860 Caroline gave four political lectures in which she called for land to be made available so that migrant families could establish small farms, a move Caroline saw as providing greater stability in the colonies. Caroline also wrote a novelette Little Joe that was serialised in the local paper.[5]

In 1854 Caroline 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. Caroline continued to work in Melbourne travelling to and fro to the home and store the Chisholms had purchased in Kyneton. Caroline 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.

Return to Australia and later life

In 1849, with the support of Lord Shaftesbury, Sir Sydney Herbert and Wyndham Harding FRS, Caroline founded the Family Colonization 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. Caroline 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 through Caroline’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. Caroline 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. Caroline had an audience with Pope Pius IX, who gave her a Papal Medal and bust of herself.

Before Caroline and Archibald 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. Caroline believed the only way to encourage emigration was for prospective emigrants to read letters from those already living in the colony. Back in England Caroline and Archibald 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. Caroline 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.

Migration reforms and the Family Colonization Loan Society
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