Caroline Chisholm (1808-1877), philanthropist, was born near Northampton, England, daughter of William Jones.
The Chisholms arrived in Sydney in the Emerald Isle in September 1838; they settled at Windsor, where Caroline remained with her three sons.
Although New South Wales was then passing into depression, rural labour was needed, but the government had no plans for dispersing the throngs of assisted immigrants who remained in Sydney without employment.
In January 1841 she approached Governor and Lady Gipps and the proprietors of the Sydney Herald with a plan for a girls’ home. Entirely dependent on public subscription, it sheltered up to ninety-six women.
In her first year’s report, Female Immigration, Considered in a Brief Account of the Sydney Immigrants’ Home (Sydney, 1842), she was able to announce the closing of the home because her plans for dispersing immigrants into the interior had been so successful.
To a select committee on distressed labourers, she outlined a scheme for settling families on the land with long leases. Her prediction of permanent prosperity for these families ensured the opposition of the land-owning members of the committee.
Undaunted, she arranged at her own expense the settlement of twenty-three families on land at Shellharbour given to her by Robert Towns and told a second committee in 1844 about this experiment, but her plan was again rejected
After two years of official indifference to her principal object, family emigration, she decided to act unaided. Her first plan for a land-ticket system was defeated by the influence in London of alarmed squatters.
Next she formed a committee of wealthy London merchants and, after a lecture tour of Scotland, her Family Colonization Loan Society became a reality in 1849, with Lord Ashley president of the London central committee, branch committees throughout the British Isles and agents in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.
The society received the savings of intending emigrants or their colonial relations and lent them the balance of the passage money.
When the first chartered ship Slains Castle sailed on 1 October 1850, she personally supervised the embarkation of passengers, placing friendless girls with families and the aged with the young.
When Caroline Chisholm sailed for Australia in the Ballarat in 1854, her departure was widely reported and over £900 was subscribed as a testimonial. The family was in desperate need and opened a store with some of this money, although Caroline accepted it with reluctance.
She developed a kidney disease in 1857, and in November the family moved to Kyneton.
Later Caroline had to go to Sydney for medical attention but she also gave public lectures there on the land question in 1859-61.
Russet-haired, tall and sweet-voiced, her serene face lit by grey eyes, Caroline Chisholm began her work accepting established conventions, but when she encountered the obstruction and indifference of officialdom, her attitude began to harden and she became an uncompromising radical, expounding her belief in universal suffrage.
Herself a devoted wife and mother, she helped to give dignity to women and family in a harsh colonial society.