Portrait of Caroline Chisholm by Thomas Fairland, 1852
Caroline Chisholm was known as ‘the emigrant’s friend’ for her work with poor immigrants in the 19th century.
Born in England in 1808, she moved to Australia with her husband in 1839. In Sydney, Chisholm was shocked at the conditions in which female immigrants lived. Thousands were unemployed and many slept destitute and vulnerable on the streets. Some were forced into prostitution.
Although the Government had paid for their passages to Australia, no assistance was provided for them on arrival. Chisholm persuaded the Governor to give her a building in which the women could live. The Female Immigrants’ Home was a great success, and in the next few years she found jobs and homes for 11,000 immigrants.
Chisholm devoted her life to improving immigrants’ lives, including the dreadful conditions on immigrant ships. She set up an employment office, and established a network of ‘shelter sheds’ in Victoria in which immigrants could stay.
Chisholm returned to England for a visit in 1866 but never returned to Australia. After a lifetime of charitable work on behalf of thousands of immigrants, she passed away in relative poverty and obscurity in 1877.