Caroline Chisholm

Caroline Chisholm work was said to have transformed the rough penal colony into a civilized  community.  During her lifetime, she helped settled thousand of migrants into their new homeland.
Caroline Chisholm work was said to have transformed the rough penal colony into a civilized community. During her lifetime, she helped settled thousand of migrants into their new homeland. | Source

In the early days in the Australian colonies, life was very difficult. Many immigrants, particularly women, struggled to survive in their new world. Caroline Chisholm worked to provide jobs and places to live for young female setlers in New South Wales. She led the way in providing assistance for immigrants, helping them to start a better life in the colony.

Read her story. . .

Caroline Chisholm (nee Jones) was born in 30 May 1808, the eighth child of a well-off farmer in Northampton England. She grew up in a family where religious tolerance and political reform were frequent topics of conversation.

Caroline was fortunate to receive a thorough traditional middle-class education in a democratic home environment in which she was encourage to express her opinions. Caroline grew into an attractive women and was passionate in her charity work, she and her mother has been cooking and delivering food to lonely aged people in their neighbourhood. Caroline meet an army lietenant named Archibald Chisholm, who was on leave from India, they married in 1830. Caroline converted to his husband faith and become a devout Catholic. They embarked a new life together in Madras, India.

While in India, Caroline found causes that need her help, she heard about uneducated young girls, Caroline started to help them by teaching them the 3Rs and teaching them practical skills and self-reliance. Caroline was able to raised sufficient fund and had enough committed supporters to established a school. Soon Caroline’s “Female School of Industry for the Daughters of the European Soldiers” offered an innovative educational program for European and girls of mixed race. The school ran effectively during her stay in Madras and continued long after they had left.


A simple woman who succeeded by her force of character and her vigor of soul.
A simple woman who succeeded by her force of character and her vigor of soul. | Source

In 1838, when Caroline Chisholm arrived in Sydney with her husband and children, she was horrified to find many homeless women sleeping in Sydney’s parks and streets because they have nowhere else to go. The town had been allowed to run down since Governor Macquarie had left in 1821. Rubbish littered the rutted streets, sewage lay in pools and there was poverty and drunkenness everywhere.

Because the colony had far more men than women, the British Government had encouraged young women to emigrate to Australia by paying them a bounty (a small amount of money to help with their costs.) But when the young women arrived , they were left to fend for themselves.


A home for female immigrants.

Shelter was the first thing they needed , jobs were next. Determined to do something for them, she persuaded the Government to let her use part of an old wooden building as a home for migrant girls and women whey they first left the ship.

Caroline took the lead in improving conditions for female immigrants. She invited homeless girls into her house at Windsor, in the bust west of Sydney. But there were too many for her house and the girls needed a shelter in Sydney.

Then Caroline discovered an old rat-infested barracks building in Sydney and she persuaded Governor Gipps to allow her to use it as a home for the young women.

No one believed the building was suitable but Caroline proved her point by sleeping there by herself, in spite of the rats. Her plan did succeed and soon there were over 90 girls and young women living in what Governor Gipps called “the house for Female

But having a home was not enough the girls needed work to support themselves. There were plenty of jobs in the country , She wrote many letters to people in country town asking them to employ the women and pay them a fair wage. She arranged transport for them into the bush on bullocks drays and rode hundreds of kilometers throughout the country on her white horse to set up employment agencies.

Some years later, Caroline noticed large numbers of families flocking to the gold fields. She arranged for shelters to be built along the road so they could make the journey safely.

She pioneered migrant welfare. Some of the changes she brought about remain to the present day.
She pioneered migrant welfare. Some of the changes she brought about remain to the present day.

Ship reformer

Life on board ships could be horrendous for the bounty girls. Some captains treated their passengers cruelly. Caroline was outraged when she learnt that one young girl has been tied to the mast , drenched with seawater and left in the freezing cold all night. She took the captain in court and he was fined and imprisoned.

Caroline insisted that rules be introduced to protect the young women. A doctor has to accompany them to protect them from the sailors and to ensure that they arrived in good health. Because one captain had been prosecuted the rules were obeyed and life on board the ships improved for immigrants.

Help For Families

In 1841, New South Wales was hit by an economic depression that left more than 2000 people in terrible poverty. Caroline swung into action for them. She persuaded the Governor to grant families small block of vacant land where they could build their own houses and develop small farms to support themselves. When this succeeded, she realized that the colony would benefit if whole families could migrate from Britain.

The Colonisation Society

To help families migrate, Caroline returned to London and established the Colonisation Society. She put pressure on the British Government to improve conditions for families migrating to Australia and she arranged loans for them to pay their way. She spoke about her scheme at public meetings and answered thousand of letters from people seeking information. She published pamphlets giving advice about life in Australia- advice about everything from the kind of clothing immigrants would need to how to survive on the bush.


Her empathy for the “lower orders” led her to brave tough neighborhoods or confront convicts, prostitutes and pimps. Instead of preaching, she offered them practical alternatives such as the chance to work for fair pay and gain self-respect.

Although she was deeply religious Caroline was concerned not only with saving souls but the person, people who have been exposed to maltreatment, exploitation, disease and premature death. She went beyond and offered her personal example and physical support.



The most remarkable aspect of Caroline’s story is that while she achieved more in her lifetime than several other “greats” put together, she also found time and energy to be a wife and mother of nine children six of whom lived to adulthood.

From all accounts, she was loving and caring towards her family. This combined with pioneering work of gigantic significance at a time when women in public life were rare.

In 1866, Caroline Chisholm returned to London where the British Government gave her a small pension in recognition of her work.

She spent the last five years of her life bed ridden with kidney disease and died in 1877 aged 69.

On her grave are the words “The Emigrant's Friend” .

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Comments 3 comments

Vladimir Uhri profile image

Vladimir Uhri 7 years ago from HubPages, FB


Nice hub. Thanks.

ralwus 7 years ago

Very nice hub. That was a wonderful woman and in the last picture of hr I can see the compassion and love just flowing from her kind eyes.

candie 5 years ago

she is a wonderful person

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