Feast of Caroline Chisholm (May 3)   Leave a comment

Colonial Flag of Australia

Above:  The Colonial Flag of Australia

Image in the Public Domain

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CAROLINE CHISHOLM (MAY 3, 1808-MARCH 25, 1877)

English Humanitarian and Social Reformer

Caroline Chisholm helped tens of thousands of people via her work, which did not pay very well.  She was a philanthropist by means of time and work more than money.

Helping others defined Chisholm’s life.  She, born Caroline Jones at Northampton, England, on May 30, 1808, grew up in The Church of England, which has defined her feast day as May 16.  Our saint’s parents, Caroline Jones and William Jones, farmers, modeled caring for others–even taking people into the home.  Our saint was the youngest of her father’s 16 children and a daughter of the last of his four wives.  Our saint, aged 22 years, married Captain Archibald Chisholm, who was 13 years her senior.  He was also in the military service of the East India Company.  The new bride converted to her husband’s faith, Roman Catholicism.

Husband and wife spent years separated by long distances because of their work as well as long periods of time together.  They had eight children, six of whom survived them.  In the 1830s and 1840s our saint and her husband were both in India.  There, at Madras, she founded the Female School of Industry for the Daughters of European Soldiers, to protect the virtue of young women from soldiers.

In 1838 the first Australian phase of our saint’s life began.  Archibald was on leave from active duty.  The family relocated to the area of Sydney, New South Wales.  There our saint noticed the problem of unemployment in the colony.  Immigrants were arriving in droves, but the government had no plan for dispersing them to the countryside, where there was great demand for labor.  Chisholm, who remained in Australia with her children after her husband returned to active duty in 1840, met every ship of immigrants in Sydney.  She also found positions for girls and took some into her home.  During the following year Chisholm obtained permission from the government to establish a home for immigrant girls at Sydney.  Then she acted on it.  Our saint also developed a plan to resettle immigrants in the countryside.  She supervised the establishment of rest stations and employment agencies toward this end.  She also planned to resettle 23 families on donated land at Shellharbour, but some wealthy landowners in the area blocked that plan.  Archibald retired in 1845 and returned to Australia.  The Chisholms traveled across Australia to raise funds for their humanitarian work, for no financial support was forthcoming from the government.

The Chisholm family relocated to England in 1846 and continued to work on the issue of emigration from the mother country to Australia.  Our saint lobbied the Parliament successfully to permit free passage for the wives and children of freed convicts and to ensure suitable conditions aboard the ships.  In 1849, with the support of Anthony Ashley Cooper (1801-1885), Chisholm founded the Family Colonization Loan Association, with branches in the British Isles and Australia.  The Society facilitated emigration to Australia, functioned as an employment agency, and offered lower interest rates than other lenders.  Archibald returned to Australia in 1851 to work as an agent of the Society.  The family reunited there–this time in the colony of Victoria–three years later.

The Chisholms continued to commit good works in Australia in the 1850s and 1860s.  Our saint lobbied successfully for government funding for the construction of shelter sheds for miners.  Archibald and children operated a store while Chisholm traveled across Australia, speaking on behalf of small farmers.  In the early 1860s she opened a school for girls at Newtown (near Sydney).  Later our saint moved the school to Tempe (also near Sydney).

Our saint was, by the standards of the day, a radical.  She worked for the dignity of women and girls in the rough-and-tumble setting of colonial Australia, favored the secret ballot, and supported women’s suffrage.  Furthermore, she not only thought that someone ought to do something, but acted to address those issues she was able to influence.

All the Chisholms had returned to England by 1866, living first in Liverpool then in Highgate, London.  Our saint died on March 25, 1877, aged 68 years.  Archibald died in August that same year.  Both husband and wife had lived their Roman Catholic faith, uniting faith and works.

Archive.org offers three works germane to our saint:

  1. The A.B.C. of Colonization; in a Series of Letters by Mrs. Chisholm (1850);
  2. Memoirs of Mrs. Caroline Chisholm, with an Account of Her Philanthropic Labours, in India, Australia, and England; To Which is Added a History of the Family Colonization Loan Society; Also the Question, Who Ought to Emigrate?, Answered by Eneas Mackenzie (1852); and
  3. An profile in The Illustrated Magazine of Art (1854).

Chisholm

Above:  Caroline Chisholm’s Image on Money

Image Subject to Fair Use

Legacies of Caroline Chisholm include the Caroline Chisholm Society, Victoria, Australia, and her image on the back of the Australian $5 bill from the late 1960s to the early 1990s.  There is also a cause for the canonization of our saint in the Roman Catholic Church.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 15, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE NEW MARTYRS OF LIBYA, 2015

THE FEAST OF ALEXANDER VIETS GRISWOLD, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS HAROLD ROWLEY, NORTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BRAY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom

the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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