Caroline (Jones) Chisholm was born in Northamptonshire
, in 1808 to a very generous and charitable family. She had a wonderful catholic
upbringing, with her family environment full of love.
She helped so many Australians during her time that for over 20 years her face featured on the Australian $5 banknote, before being replaced by Queen Elizabeth II of England.
At the age of 22 she married Archibald Chisholm. The couple travelled to Madras, India as Archibald was a member of the East India Company. It was in Madras where Caroline founded the Female School of Industry for the Daughters of European Soldiers. Her husband was granted sick leave in 1838, during of which he and Caroline travelled to Sydney, Australia. At the time Sydney was still a convict town.
Caroline was appalled by the number of women who were begging and living on the streets of Sydney. She discovered a group of 64 homeless women seeking shelter in The Rocks area with only 14 shillings and 3 pence amongst them. Many girls were dumped on the wharf when they arrived in Australia, and had nowhere to go.
When her husband returned to service, Caroline stayed behind in Sydney. Determined to improve the lives of these girls she asked Governor Gipps for a building in which she would house homeless and unemployed girls, while she found suitable jobs and decent homes for them to live in. Gipps refused her request, yet Caroline eventually managed to convince his wife and then the governor himself of the benefits. The building she was given had been unused for quite some time, filthy and full of rats. She saw this as a challenge given to her by god and worked hard towards her goal.
The home for female immigrants was a great success. Within two years she had assisted 1000 women with finding jobs and homes. After six years the total had reached 11,000.
Women in England were told of a better life they could live in Australia. When they arrived in the country all their hopes were dashed, and the so-called glamorous land was merely a primitive penal colony. Caroline mainly worked with these women but also whole families as soon they were suffering the same burdens of poverty and homelessness. She gave up a significant amount of her own time to helping others and was often critisized for neglecting her nine children. On top of all this, Caroline pushed for betting conditions aboard ships and developed the Family Reunion Scheme, which involved the families of ex-convicts being shipped to Australia free of charge. She never once accepted money for her work.
In 1876 she moved back to England without her husband or first born son. She died in March 1877 with a broken heart and lacking the will to live. By then she was poor and almost forgotten, but history still honours and respects her as a notable Australian women's rights pioneer and philanthropist.