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Caroline Chisholm
, 1853

by J B. Hunt (engraver) after Antoine F. Claudet

steel-engraving (sheet: 24.5 cm x 15.8 cm, plate-mark: 23.0 cm x 15.5 cm, image: 11.8 cm x 9.5 cm)

Caroline Chisholm (née Jones, 1808–1877), philanthropist and political agitator, spent almost two decades working to improve conditions for immigrants to Australia. Interested in welfare work from a young age, Chisholm came to Sydney in July 1838 with her husband, Archibald, and two sons, having spent the previous five years in India. Shocked by the conditions faced by single women immigrants in New South Wales, she resolved ‘never to rest until decent protection was afforded them’. She began by taking newly-arrived women into her own home and in 1841 opened the Female Immigrants’ Home, which provided shelter and operated as an employment agency. Despite official indifference, prejudice against her Catholicism, and hostility from squatters, Chisholm led convoys of horse-drawn vehicles into rural areas, settling people on farms. By 1842, she claimed to have helped ‘upwards of 2000 persons’ find homes, husbands and employment. Back in England from 1846, she continued lobbying, indefatigably, on behalf of assisted immigrants, eventually becoming one of the best-known women in England. She returned to Australia in 1854 and busied herself on the Victorian goldfields, but during her second long stay she became sick, struggled financially, opened a girls’ school and faded into relative obscurity. She returned to England in 1866 and died there eleven years later.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2015
Accession number: 2015.83