Caroline Chisholm

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Caroline Chisholm
Caroline Chisholm.jpg
Born Caroline Elizabeth Jones
(1808-05-30)30 May 1808
Wootton, Northamptonshire[1]
Died 25 March 1877(1877-03-25) (aged 68)
Known for Humanitarian work, immigration reform
Home town England,Northampton
Salary unknown
Height unknown
Weight 75
Religion Anglicanism, Catholicism
Spouse(s) Archibald Chisholm[1]
Children 6 children[1]
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[edit]

She was born to Sarah Jones in Wootton, close to Northampton.[1] Her well-to-do father, William Jones, was a land owner and pig farmer.[3][4] She was the youngest of a large family and was educated by a governess, excelling in mathematics and French.[4] When still a child, her father took into his house a poor maimed soldier. Her father pointed out the children's obligations to the man who had fought for them. There is little doubt this led to the developed sense of responsibility that was the basis of Mrs Chisholm's life work.[5] At the age of 22, Caroline married Captain Archibald Chisholm, of the East India Company, thirteen years her senior.[3] The Chisholms were married in the Church of England,[4] but Caroline converted to her husband's religion, Roman Catholicism, at about this time.[3]

Madras, India[edit]

In 1832, Captain Chisholm was posted to Madras in India, and Caroline Chisholm joined him there a year later.[1] Chisholm observed that the wives and daughters of British soldiers were living in poverty and involved in crime and prostitution, and so she appealed to the Governor of Madras for assistance in establishing a school.[6] In 1834 Chisholm founded the Female School of Industry for the Daughters of European Soldiers[1][3] which provided a practical education for the girls and young women.[4] They were given instruction in reading, writing and religion, cooking, housekeeping and nursing. The school was taken over by the government when the Chisholms left.[5]

Sydney, New South Wales[edit]

In 1838, Captain Chisholm was granted leave, and the Chisholm family moved to Sydney in the colony of New South Wales (now part of Australia).[3] The family settled at Windsor, and Chisholm and the children remained there when her husband was recalled to active service in 1840. Chisholm established employment agencies in rural centres,[3] and in 1842 was able to close the Female Immigrants Home because of her success in finding work for unemployed immigrants.[1][3] Chisholm later extended her work to include families as well as single women, and between 1841 and 1844 assisted 14,000 people to settle in New South Wales.

Migration reforms and the Family Colonization Loan Society[edit]

In 1846 Chisholm returned to England, with her husband, to encourage migration to Australia and to promote migration reform. Before leaving the colony, Chisholm had collected over six hundred statements from settlers around New South Wales, and she published many of these in England to support her arguments for greater migration. Chisholm gave evidence before two committees in the House of Lords and gained support for some of her initiatives, including free passage to Australia for the wives and children of former convicts, but there was little official support for family migration.

In 1849, with the support of wealthy Londoners, such as Wyndham Harding F.R.S..,[7] Chisholm established the Family Colonization Loan Society. The Society lent migrant families the money they needed to travel to Australia, with agents in Australia finding employment for new arrivals and collecting the loan repayments. The Society also chartered its own ships to transport the new colonists. With the discovery of gold in Australia interest in migration rose sharply, and by 1854 the Society had assisted more than 3000 people to travel to Australia. Chisholm continued to agitate for reform, and the Passenger Act of 1852 was passed to ensure better shipboard conditions for migrants.[3] Captain Archibald Chisholm left for Australia in March 1851 as colonial agent, leaving Caroline with increased duties.[3] Caroline toured Britain, Germany, France and Italy, where she visited Pope Pius IX. Her comments on shipboard conditions ensured the passing of the Passenger Act of 1852.[3]

Return to Australia and Later Life[edit]

Caroline Chisholm returned to Australia aboard the Ballarat in 1854 and toured the Victorian goldfields. Chisholm proposed the construction of shelters for people travelling to the goldfields, a project which received support from the government. Chisholm also campaigned for land to be made available so that migrant families could establish small farms, a move Chisholm saw as providing greater stability in the colonies.[3] Caroline and her family lived in Kyneton, where Archibald sat on the magistrates' bench and their two elder sons ran a store.

The Chisholm family moved to Sydney in 1857, and back to England in 1866. Caroline Chisholm died in 1877.[3]


A number of educational facilities in Australia and England have been named after Caroline 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' headquarter, 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[16] and banknotes.[17] The character of Mrs Jellyby in Dickens' novel Bleak House is said to be based on Caroline Chisholm.[18]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "TIME-LINE — CAROLINE AND ARCHIBALD CHISHOLM". April 2009. 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 d e f g h i j k l Judith Iltis, 'Chisholm, Caroline (1808–1877)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, Melbourne University Press, 1966, pp. 221–223.
  4. ^ a b c d "Caroline Chisholm Society: Pregnancy Counselling, Post Natal Depression, Melbourne, Victoria". Retrieved 24 August 2009. 
  5. ^ a b Serle, Percival (1949). "Chisholm, Caroline". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. Retrieved 2010-09-09. 
  6. ^ "BBC – Northamptonshire – A Sense Of Place – Northhamptonshire People: Caroline Chisholm". BBC. January 2004. Retrieved 24 August 2009. 
  7. ^ Chisolm, Caroline, Memoirs of Mrs. Caroline Chisolm 2nd ed. p.139, Webb, Millington and Co., London, 1852
  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. Retrieved on 2011-09-22.
  13. ^ Caroline Chisholm Education Foundation. (2011-08-03). Retrieved on 2011-09-22.
  14. ^ Place name search.
  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. (1966-02-14). Retrieved on 2011-09-22.
  18. ^, "Mrs. Chisholm's preoccupation with phil­anthropic works, to the neglect of her home and family, obviously suggested to Dickens the similar characteristics of Mrs. Jellyby in Bleak House"; Anne Lohrli, 1973, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Further reading[edit]