Why our Staff Love Caroline Chisholm: Caroline Chisholm is one of those Australian historical figures that most us know of, but about whom few know anything in detail. We may recognise her as the face of the old $5 note, and perhaps might know that she helped numerous female immigrants, but that may be it. A definitive biography of this incredible life was long overdue and it has arrived in Caroline Chisholm: An Irresistible Force - an entertaining book that is firmly a product of the 21st century.
Sarah Goldman, a journalist and TV producer, has presented Chisholm as a proto-feminist who forced change for the good of the powerless in the face of patriarchal big business. Through Goldman’s humanising vision, in which each chapter is opened with short imagined scenes from Chisholm’s life, we see clearly how the shy girl from Northampton with the sweet voice became a loud and obstinate reformer, a defiant champion of the rights of women and an advocate of racial equality.
Chisholm rallied against the way the "monopolising spirit of capital and power" used immigration of single adults as a form of slavery. She pushed for family resettlement in rural areas, and argued that social support and mobility were the only suitable foundation stones for building a fair nation, rebuked the whole way by wealthy squatters and mill owners. She was a champion of the racially scorned Irish and Chinese, secured support for shelters for Goldrush prospectors, and opened schools for market farm workers. Along the way, Chisholm even became the model for a Dickens character in Bleak House, and became the first woman to have a book published in Australia. Given her incredible achievements, it’s no wonder there is currently an active Catholic push for her to be canonised.
Goldman's book covers all this and so much more with an engaging and fresh style, drawing on newly discovered sources and eloquently framing Chisholm in her time and place. I can thoroughly recommend this fascinating and lively book on a criminally overlooked woman, for through it Caroline Chisholm has been given flesh and blood at last!
Book Description:A fresh, spirited and engaging biography of a fascinating and influential woman who was absolutely instrumental in shaping modern Australia but whose influence and importance has largely been forgotten.
Caroline Chisholm was a take-no-prisoners game-changer of colonial Australia as well as a charming, wholly committed, and utterly determined force of nature. Arriving in Australia in 1838, she was appalled by the plight of young female immigrants in Australia there were no jobs for them, no accommodation, and many of them resorted to prostitution to survive.
In response to this need, Caroline became a woman on a mission. She met every immigrant ship and became a familiar figure on the wharves, finding positions for immigrant girls and sheltering many of them in her home. As the government of the day refused to help, Chisholm established accommodation, services and the first employment office in the colony, drawing up the first ever employment contracts in Australia.
She established minimum wages, found jobs and homes, created employment agencies in a dozen rural centres as well, and she managed to do all this without any assistance from the government of the time. In many ways a proto-feminist and committed social activist, she utterly transformed life in Australia.
A long overdue, contemporary and lively reassessment of Caroline, whichs brings to life her spirited character, her modern relevance, her feminist credentials and her egalitarian spirit..