Young women, often orphans, servants or factory workers, were actively recruited with low priced ‘bounty’ tickets to Australia in an effort to balance the male-female ratio in the new colonies. Many of the young ‘bounty’ girls who arrived in Sydney and Melbourne found themselves in a miserable situation, with little but prostitution and crime to sustain them.
Caroline Chisholm, the wife of a British soldier, arrived in Sydney in September 1838. There she saw the misery of unemployed immigrant women who lived on the streets in the areas known as the Rocks, not far from the wharves where the ships arrived.
Caroline began helping some of these women find work and took others into her home. She taught them the basics of housekeeping and cooking so they could be employed in the homes of the middle and upper classes.
While her husband was fighting in the Opium Wars in China, Caroline convinced Governor Gipps to let her use an old shed as a welfare agency. She and her sons moved into the 45-foot long shed that was home to thousands of rats. Within a short time, it was also home to 100 women.
Caroline worked hard to educate the women and get them paid work. She expanded her welfare agency beyond Sydney, setting up sixteen emigrant women’s hostels around the colony.
Caroline died in England in 1877, recognised as leading social reformer. She is remembered in Australia today by many schools that bear her name, the Caroline Chisholm Society, the federal electorate of Chisholm in Victoria, the Caroline Chisholm Centre for Health Ethics and many other charitable and social organisations, awards and foundations. For many years her image graced our $5 note.
More on the Factory Women of Oz here, here & here
More on Australian Women & History, here