We are often asked about the relationship between Caroline Chisholm and the Sisters of Charity at the Archives, and a recent request prompted us to write a response for the blog.
Caroline Chisholm arrived in Sydney in 1838, the same year as the first five Sisters of Charity. She was deeply troubled by the neglect shown to newly arrived immigrants, especially the single women. Her entreaties to the Government resulted in the opening of The Female Immigrant’s Home in Bent St, Sydney, in 1841, where she assisted these women with accommodation and employment. The Sisters of Charity recorded in their annals that they were frequent visitors to the Immigrant’s Home to “console, advise, and administer medicine”. When one of the early Sisters was to return to Ireland in 1846, the Sisters had nominated Caroline Chisholm to accompany her.
William Chisholm, one of Caroline’s children, married Susan McSwiney around 1852. Within two years both William and their baby daughter had died. Susan Chisholm became a Sister of Charity in 1862, and was known as Sr Mary Joseph Chisholm. She was in charge of several of the early Convents, and became the first Rectress of St Joseph’s Consumptive Hospital at Parramatta, a hospital for those suffering with tuberculosis, from 1886 – 1892. It was the second hospital to be established by the Sisters in Australia. She was in charge of the day to day operation of the hospital, as well as discharging nursing duties.
She is remembered for her work amongst the poor, and being “strong of constitution and agile of limb, no distance being too great for her to walk when there was need of her charitable aid”. Sr Mary Joseph Chisholm died in 1901.