International Commander of the Salvation Army
By Kathy Irey
She was born in London on Christmas Day in 1865 to a family that believed women and men could be used equally by God. Tall, thin, with long auburn hair, she chose to never marry even though she was seriously pursued by a Russian prince. A singer, she accompanied herself on the guitar, harp, or one of the other many instruments she played. She was also an accomplished horsewoman and a hymnwriter.
Evangeline “Eva” Booth was all of these things but history remembers her as the Worldwide Commander-in-Chief of The Salvation Army.
Evangeline Booth was the seventh of the eight children of Catherine and William Booth. In the year Evangeline was born, William Booth, a Methodist minister, left the Methodist Church to found what became The Salvation Army. Evangeline was raised in a family immersed in this new organization’s work and was given a leadership position when she was seventeen. Six years later, she became head of the Army’s International Training College and Commander of the The Salvation Army in London . Following this, she became Commander of the Army’s forces in Canada . Because of a family tragedy, her time in Canada only amounted to a few years. In 1903, Evangeline’s sister, Emma Booth-Tucker, who along with her husband commanded the American Salvation Army, was killed in a train accident. Emma’s husband tried to carry on himself but could not. In 1904, Evangeline was appointed to replace him. She served as Commander of the United States forces for the next thirty years.
Under her leadership, the American Salvation Army expanded its already far-reaching social services. She established hospitals for unwed mothers, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, services for the unemployed, homes for aging adults, and prison work. Evangeline Residences were opened to provide homes for working women. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, disaster relief became part of The Salvation Army’s services. The disaster services expanded during World War I to include the Army’s famous canteens. For The Salvation Army’s work during the war, Evangeline Booth was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1919.
On April 10, 1923 , she officially adopted the United States as her homeland when she became a naturalized citizen.
Her reign as Commander of the American Salvation Army came to an end in 1934 when she was elected as the organization’s International Commander-in-Chief. For five years, she lead The Salvation Army’s work in eighty countries.
She retired in 1939. In 1950, she died at the age of 84 in Hartsdale , New York .
Kathy is a social worker, graduate student, and free-lance writer. Her work has appeared in “Proclaim!”, “Devo’Zine”, “The Secret Place”, “Evangel”, “Contemporary Christian Music Magazine”, “HiCall”, “Teens Today”, “Affaire de Coeur”, “Freeway”, and “The Lutheran Witness”. Currently, she is writing a novel entitled Pretty Lady . She has had a deep interest in women’s history since she was in high school.