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Caroline Chisholm

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Caroline Chisholm
Caroline Chisholm Harpers.gif
Born Caroline Jones
30 May 1808(1808-05-30)
Wootton, Northamptonshire[1]
Died 25 March 1877 (aged 68)
Known for Humanitarian work, immigration reform
Religion Anglicanism, Catholicism
Spouse(s) Archibald Chisholm[1]
Children 8[1]

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 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

Born Caroline Jones in Wootton, close to Northampton,[1] her well-to-do father 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]. At the age of 22, she 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

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[5]. In 1834 Chisholm founed 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].

Sydney, New South Wales

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)[1]. The family settled at Windsor, and Chisholm and the children remained there when her husband was recalled to active service in 1840. At this stage a Sydney had a large population of unemployed immigrants, particularly young women, and Chisholm began assisting these people by helping them to find work and sheltering them in her home[3].

In 1841 Chisholm approached the Governor, Sir George Gipps, with a plan for a house for immigrant women[3]. Her first approach was turned down, but she went back twice to argue her case. Eventually Governor Gipps presented her with part of an empty immigration barracks, and Chisholm established the Female Immigrants Home that provided shelter for ninety-six women and a free emplyment registry[3].

Chisholm arrange employment for young single women in the country areas surrounding Sydney, and personally accompanied parties of women travelling to take up their new positions[4]. 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 exented 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.


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]. Chisholm has also appeared on Australian stamps[14] and banknotes[15].The character of Mrs Jellyby in Dickens' novel Bleak House is said to be based on Caroline Chisholm.[16]


Further reading

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