30 May 1808
|Died||25 March 1877 68) (aged|
Highgate, London, England
|Known for||Humanitarian work, immigration reform|
|Home town||Northampton, England|
|Children||8 children (including Caroline Agnes Gray)|
|Parent(s)||Caroline Jones, William Jones|
Caroline Chisholm (30 May 1808 – 25 March 1877)was a 19th-century English humanitarian known mostly for her support of immigrant female and family 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 also to recognise her as a saint; she had converted to Catholicism around the time of her marriage and reared her children as Catholic.
She was born in 1808 as Caroline Jones in Northampton, England, the last child of twelve born to her father, and the last of seven born to her mother, his fourth wife. Her family lived at 11 Mayorhold. Her father, William Jones, had married four times. His first three wives had died in childbirth and from illness. Caroline was a daughter of William's last wife. William Jones, who was born in Wootton, Northamptonshire, was a pig dealer, who fattened young pigs for sale. He died in 1814, when Caroline was six. He left his wife £500 and bequeathed several properties to his twelve surviving children.
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. Around this time, Caroline converted to his faith, and they reared their children as Catholic.They were married at The Holy Sepulchre, Northampton, a Church of England church. Roman Catholic clergy were still prohibited from performing recognised weddings until the Marriage Act 1836.
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 growing up with their families 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, which provided a practical education for such girls. They were instructed in reading, writing and religion, cooking, housekeeping, and nursing. Soon soldiers asked if their wives could also attend the school.
While living in India, Chisholm gave birth to two sons, Archibald and William. The family followed her husband on his assignments around the Indian subcontinent.
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.
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. Many turned to prostitution to survive. Chisholm found placement for these young women in shelters, such as her own, and helped find them permanent places to stay. She started an organisation with the help of the governess for an immigrant women’s shelter. In 1840 Captain Chisholm returned to his regiment in India, but he encouraged his wife to continue her philanthropic efforts. She set up the first home in Sydney for young women and organised other homes in several rural centres. The home was soon extended to help immigrant families and young men.
In March 1842 Chisholm rented two terraced dwellings in East Maitland. She converted them into a single cottage to be used as a hostel for homeless immigrants who had 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.
During the seven years when 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. She did not want to be dependent upon any religious or political body. The girls and families whom Chisholm helped came from different backgrounds and held different religious beliefs. She raised money for the homes through private subscription. Her husband was invalided out of the Army and returned to Australia in 1845.
Before Chisholm and her husband returned to England in 1846, they toured New South Wales (NSW), at their own expense, collecting over 600 statements from immigrants who had already settled there.Chisholm believed the only way to encourage emigration from England to Australia was for prospective emigrants to read letters from fellow pioneers already living in the colony. In England the couple published some of these statements in a pamphlet titled Comfort for the Poor – Meat Three Times a Day. The writer Charles Dickens used some of the statements in his new magazine Household Words . Their daughter, 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. The Committee supported providing 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 support emigration by lending half the cost of the fare (the emigrant to provide the other half). After living two years in Australia, an emigrant would be expected to repay the loan.
Chisholm also held regular meetings at Charlton Crescent to give practical advice to emigrants. The Society initially found accommodation on board private emigrant ships. Later it chartered its own ships to transport emigrants. Chisholm's insistence that the Society's ships improve their accommodations resulted in the upgrading of the Passenger Acts. In 1851 her husband Archibald Chisholm returned to Australia 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 emigrate to Australia. Chisholm gave emigration lectures throughout Britain, and also toured France and Italy. She collected their son William from the Propaganda College, where he had been studying to become a Roman Catholic priest. Chisholm had an audience with Pope Pius IX at the Vatican, who gave her a Papal Medal and bust of herself.
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 so that prospectors and their families could travel to the work of the goldfields. The project received support from the government. Chisholm continued to work in Melbourne, travelling to and from the home and store which the Chisholms had purchased in Kyneton. She joined her family there three years later. Archibald served as 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. At the end of 1859 and beginning of 1860, Chisholm gave four political lectures. She called for land to be allocated so that emigrant families could establish small farms. She believed such action would provide greater stability among the new settlers in the colonies. Chisholm also wrote a novella, Little Joe, that was serialised in the local paper.
Her husband accompanied the younger children back to England in 1865. Archibald Jr. accompanied his mother on her return to England in 1866. Chisholm died in London, England on 25 March 1877, and her husband died in August that year. Five of their eight children survived their parents.
Chisholm's body was taken 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.
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