She has been called the “Army Mother” but she was no stay at home mom. To be accurate, we must credit Catherine Booth with being the co-founder of The Salvation Army. She and William had 8 children, two of whom later became Generals of The Salvation Army.
Her desire to serve the marginalized was as passionate as her husband William’s. Catherine was also keenly interested in the problems of alcoholism and was a supporter of England’s Temperance Society. This drew the ire and demonstrations from alcohol distributors but didn’t change their views. A member of the Salvation Army church agrees to abstain from the use of alcohol as do all their Officers.
Inspired by revivalist, Phoebe Palmer, and encouraged by her husband William, Catherine wrote a pamphlet titled Female Ministry: Woman’s Right to Preach the Gospel (1859)
After the birth of their fourth child, Catherine asked if she could have “a word” in one of their church meetings. William announced she would speak that night. It was the beginning of a vibrant speaking ministry for her.
The Booths strong held beliefs of reaching the disenfranchised took action. They went into people’s homes to help them make a new start, particularly those struggling with alcoholism. Catherine also fought for the safeguarding of females as she lobbied Queen Victoria and helped establish the Parliamentary Bill for the protection of girls.
In 1879, a woman officer moved to America with her mom and converted an old factory into a meeting place. Lt. Eliza Shirley, along with her parents, held the first open-air service in Philadelphia to a substantial crowd.
At the news of the successful meetings, General Booth sent George Railton and seven ‘hallelujah lassies’ to begin the official work of the Army in the United States. In a letter to Catherine Booth, Railton wrote: “Those English may stick to their men as hard as they like, but I am certain it is the women who are going to burst up the world, especially the American women.”
Later, the Booth’s seventh child, Evangeline, became Commander of the Army’s work in America. This time there was a literal battle being fought and Evangeline knew The Salvation Army needed to support the military troops in WWI. She borrowed money to fund the operations overseas.
The Salvation Army officer in charge of the work in France asked Booth to send women. This came as a surprise but she trusted her officers and sent over a group of lassies.
When the women arrived they realized the troops had need for some home comfort cooking and with little supplies, they managed to fry some doughnuts. It didn’t take long for these Doughnut Girls to realize this bit of fried dough did more for the men’s psyche than their bellies.
It’s no wonder that one of William Booth’s most famous quotes is “Some of my best men are women.”
Today’s Army is no different with women serving in leadership roles and holding ordination as Officers.
“You are not here in the world for yourself. You have been sent here for others. The world is waiting for you!” Catherine Booth