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  • Writer's pictureBridget Walsh

Caroline Chisholm - Characters and serendipity

I used to work in Northampton, and some of my students came from the Caroline Chisholm School, in the south of the county. The name of the school meant nothing to me until I began to research the history of New South Wales for my novel "Daughters in Exile."

I came across am English philanthropist who helped female immigrants newly arrived in Australia in the 1840s. It was Caroline Chisholm, born, Caroline Jones, in 1808 in Northamptonshire.

She married Archibald Chisholm, a British officer in the East India Company, and converted to the catholic faith. Then she travelled with her husband to Madras, in India, where she began to help young women as part of her calling to do humanitarian work.

In 1838, they settled in Sydney, New South Wales, and remained there until 1846.

Caroline set up an immigrant women’s shelter to help young women find secure accommodation and work. (Wikipedia, Caroline Chisholm)

As soon as I read about Caroline Chisholm and her work, I knew she would be perfect to help my character, Jane, who had arrived without any money or contacts in New South Wales, in 1846.

Caroline was young herself at the time, still in her thirties, with a young family, yet she helped many women and girls to find their way in their new life in Australia.

She is a saint in the church of England. A truly remarkable woman. I was pleased to let her help my fictional character, as she had helped so many women and girls in real life.

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