Such broad brush descriptions of Caroline Chisholm’s life inevitably led to ‘how can I find out more about her’ questions. That’s where Rodney Stinson’s books come in. His first book about her is ‘Unfeigned Love: Historical Accounts of Caroline Chisholm and Her Work’. It was published in 2008. His second book about her is ‘See Judge Act: Caroline Chisholm’s Lay Apostolate’. It was published in 2009.
These details were printed in the books.
Should you think the phrase See Judge Act is familiar, that may be because it is the guiding principle of the Young Christian Workers and Young Christian Students movements. A very long time ago my parish youth group was a part of the Young Christian Students movement, but not a very good part because we did a bit too much talking about issues and not enough doing something about issues. I suspect that we were less than successful because we didn’t have worked examples of the See Judge Act method happening in real life to make the process tangible and give us those ‘aha’ moments of understanding. By putting Caroline Chisholm’s social work under the See Judge Act lens those missing worked examples are provided.
The first section of the book is a detailed introduction to this See Judge Act method. Read this part last unless you have had an association with the YCW and YCS movements.
The second section of the book is a very good biographical summary of Caroline Chisholm’s life. It would take about 30 minutes to read that summary aloud to a student or a group, and if done in two sections would suit bedtime story time or home school story time.
The last section of the book, after an explanatory chapter, then contains chapters about specific incidents in Caroline Chisholm’s life and her active response to them. Each chapter contains questions suitable for group discussion.
Because each of those seven chapters is relatively short, with the story part taking 15-20 minutes to read aloud to a group, it is short enough to allowing enough time to fit a 15-20 minute discussion into a 40 minute school lesson or ethics lesson, or even into a youth group meeting, or an adult faith group study into how to live out the parable of the Good Samaritan in daily life.
For example, one chapter tells of the arrival of an immigrant ship, and Caroline’s discovery that an outgoing 15 year old girl was missing. From past experience Caroline has a good idea of who may have enticed the lass away from safety and Caroline undertakes to travel a considerable distance at night over water to convince both the man to let the lass go, and to convince the lass to return with her across the water. The stakes were high. Staying with such a man was the path to becoming a single mother, and without any social security payments in the colony and the huge social shame, most young women on that path ended up either being forced into prostitution to survive or choosing suicide. Returning with Caroline meant the hope of getting employment with a reputable employer and the hope of finding a good husband to marry.
These short chapters would suit home school families looking for unit studies incorporating Australian history, geography, civics, social justice and opportunity for research skills. They should prompt questions about assisted immigration, what Sydney and New South Wales was like in the 1840s, how colonial government worked, what the fashions of the 1840s were like, considerations of the social welfare situation in the 1840s, and hopefully a deep dive into the letters to the editor of the Sydney newspapers of the time via the Trove website of the National Library of Australia.
For its purpose, to encourage and stimulate discussion about the life of Caroline Chisholm, this little book of 50 pages of texts and fully attributed images succeeds.
But the detailed incidents in the seven short chapters do leave you wanting to know more about her. So if you are primarily looking for the full story of Caroline Chisholm’s life based on well-researched documentary evidence, Rodney Stinson’s other book Unfeigned Love would be a better choice for you.