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Caroline Chisholm never forgotten
By Dr Carole Walker
Ph.D writer on Caroline Chisholm

Caroline is celebrated in Australia
The remarkable life of Caroline Chisholm is celebrated in Australia

Caroline Chisholm, nee Jones, was a remarkable ordinary woman who led an extraordinary life.

Born in Northampton, 30 May 1808, the youngest child of William and seventh child of Sarah, his fourth wife.

William, a pig dealer buying pigs to fatten up and sell on, died, aged 70, when Caroline was six.

He left Sarah £500 and several properties to his twelve surviving children. That was just the beginning of Caroline's extraordinary journey.

Archibald Chisholm, a Roman Catholic Scot, born 1798, was a soldier in the East India Company Army. Caroline insisted Archibald let her follow her "divine mission to perform... public duties".

They married Northampton, 27 December, 1830, when Caroline converted to Catholicism - a brave decision when anti-Catholicism was common.


Archibald returned to Madras on 6 January, 1832. Caroline arrived August 1833.

She followed the army around India, gave birth to two sons, and founded the School of Industry for the Daughters of European Soldiers, teaching practical skills to help employment prospects and be better wives and mothers.

Because of Archibald's ill health, the family sailed for Australia in March 1838. They settled at Windsor, thirty miles from Sydney.

The appalling plight of emigrants soon became apparent. Archibald returned to Madras in 1840. In 1841 Caroline founded the Sydney Immigrants' Home initially for single girls, with similar homes in outlying areas, but later helped families and single men.

Caroline found jobs for emigrants, issuing triplicate contracts that were rarely disputed. She settled 11,000 emigrants and gave evidence before Colonial Select Committees.

Archibald, invalided out of the Army in 1845, joined his wife touring NSW collecting statements from settled emigrants.

Returning to England in 1846 they settled in Islington. Intending emigrants besieged their home.

In 1849 Caroline founded the Family Colonisation Loan Society that loaned half the fare repayable after two years in NSW.

Caroline's insistence on improvements on board ship led to upgraded Passenger Acts, which annoyed ship builders.

A Bust

Archibald returned to Australia in 1851 as the Society's Honorary Colonial Agent. Caroline continued her work giving emigration lectures throughout Britain and Europe, and evidence to Parliamentary Committees.

In Rome Pope Pius IX gave Caroline a Papal Medal and bust of herself.

Returning to Melbourne in 1854, Caroline organised a chain of shelter sheds for families going to the gold fields.

They opened a shop in Kyneton where Archibald became a magistrate, Caroline travelling back and forth from Melbourne.

Because of Caroline's ill health they moved to Sydney, where she started a school, and in 1859/60 gave four political lectures and wrote a novelette.

Archibald and younger family returned to England in 1865, Caroline in 1866. She died in Fulham, London, 25 March 1877, in relative poverty and obscurity.

A service was held at Northampton Catholic Cathedral, and she was buried in Billing Road Cemetery. Archibald died four months later. The gravestone reads "the Emigrants' Friend".


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