The Caroline Chisholm Scrapbook with Moya McFadzean
Moya McFadzean, Senior Curator, Migration, at Museum Victoria, shows us the Caroline Chisholm Scrapbook, thought to have been assembled by Caroline Chisholm herself, or, more likely, someone close to her, as it contains many personal items including tickets, invitations and billposters for her many speeches.
Caroline Chisholm was a great proponent of immigration, with a particular focus on conditions for immigrants, especially women.
-There's a certain irony about scrapbooks, because their very function is to preserve the memories and special events and activities and achievements of a particular person. And yet the very nature of scrapbooks is that they are, in fact, ephemeral. They're made of paper and they're full of material that is often not meant to survive. So it's particularly special when an object like this has survived for as long as it has.
Caroline Chisholm is a well-known figure in Australian and British history. Caroline was born in 1808 and made her first visit to Australia in 1838. She spent about 20 years of her life strongly in the public sphere. And she is considered a social reformer and a philanthropist whose passion in life was to promote immigration to Australia.
Her particular passions were looking after single women-- single young women who were coming to the colonies without support, without finances, and without protection, and who were often left destitute by the time they had arrived. She was also very active in trying to promote the immigration of families.
The scrapbook is over 100 years old, and most of the material that's in the scrapbook is around 150 years old. The museum is very fortunate, because the scrapbook, we think, was handed down during generations of the Chisholm family until it turned up in an auction in Tasmania in 1970, where it was purchased by a Chisholm historian. And then that family very kindly donated the scrapbook to the museum's collection in 2000.
This particular page is interesting, because it contains a list of missing friends. And I like to think of this as one of the really early attempts at a family reunion scheme for immigration. And that was something that Caroline herself endeavored to achieve. She was very passionate about reuniting families. So Caroline received a lot of letters and correspondence from people who would let her know about their missing relatives.
This page contains a wonderful poster promoting a lecture that Mrs. Chisholm-- as she's referred to here-- was giving on female immigration. And this is just an example of the numerous lectures and public appearances that she was making throughout the United Kingdom to promote immigration to Australia. And this one is particularly about promoting the immigration of women. Because around the mid-19th century in Australia-- and Port Phillip in particular-- there were many, many more men than there were women.
The shelter sheds were another project of Caroline Chisholm which commenced in 1855. Numerous people who were on roads to gold diggings were often just sleeping on the roadsides. So Caroline Chisholm was able to come up with a system whereby a series of shelter sheds were built between Melbourne and Castlemaine. And the idea was that these shelter sheds would be built within one day walking distances along the road to the gold diggings.
These were quite substantial buildings which provided very basic sleeping accommodation, but also cooking facilities. And people could actually purchase tickets for overnight stays at these shelter sheds, either before they left England, or once they arrived in Melbourne.
So a really important advancement that she made here, which again showed how she really considered the conditions that people were living in once they actually arrived in the colonies, whereas before, a lot of immigration really only focused on getting people here, and really not too worried about what happened to them once they got here.
This page contains a number of small cards which are publicizing where she'd been invited to address a meeting. One of particular interest here is a meeting of the Jews and General Literary and Scientific Institution.
One of the really interesting things about Caroline is that it would appear that she really had no religious prejudices at that time, and some of the Jewish leaders in London were extremely supportive of all of her endeavors. And she organized Jewish families to come out to Port Phillip, as well as people of a Protestant and Catholic background-- whereas one of her major critics at the time, a Dr. John Lang who was also a great exponent of immigration to Australia, he was really only interested in bringing out Protestant immigrants. And in fact, a lot of his critique of Caroline was as much about her own Catholic faith as anything else.
On this page there are some very small, nondescript-looking items, but they are rather interesting, because they are a variety of invitations that Caroline Chisholm received to various soirees and quite high-ranking official functions. And it shows where she was also doing a lot of her fundraising for her projects. So there are invitations to events with mayors, and governments, and even royalty both in the UK and Australia.
And finally, on this page, there is a document which lists a large number of people who were recipients of Caroline Chisholm's loan fund. It's probably the achievement that Caroline Chisholm is best known for, the setting up of the Family Colonization Loan Society, which was established around 1849.
And the purpose of this fund was to assist people-- and particularly families-- to immigrate to Australia. She was very keen on keeping families together, and she was also keen on bringing out groups of families. You might get 13 families in one group who could provide a support network for one another.
And then the idea was that when-- after people had arrived in Australia and established themselves-- that they would actually pay back the funds that they had loaned. Unfortunately, Caroline Chisholm was quite idealistic in that sense, and it would appear that a lot of people did not, in fact, pay back their loans, which really did stretch the society significantly.
So it's a rather lovely personal insight to see these lists of real people, the ships that they came out on. And these were ships that were charted by Caroline Chisholm's Colonisation Society, which then operated under the kind of ship-board conditions that she was so keen on providing.
This is just a sample of some of the very special and rare material that is contained in this wonderful scrapbook. It's a book that we consider to be of vital importance to any researcher who wants to look into the details of Caroline Chisholm, into 19th century immigration history to Australia, to the processes of that immigration, to the ships that were coming, and even the details of some of the people that came who are featured in these lists.
For a woman who was so modest and so understated, who refused payment for any of her work-- and in fact in 1877 passed away in poverty. There were only passing references to her-- her dying-- in England, and even fewer references in Australia. So this scrapbook really helps to fill the gaps and complete the picture of an extraordinary life of a 19th-century Victorian-era woman.