Mrs. Catherine Booth
Mother of the Salvation Army
1829 – 1890 A.D.
When but twelve years of age, Catherine Mumford became secretary of a little temperance society, was a bright and earnest talker, and even wrote articles for publication. The young heart was always on the side of the weak and unfortunate. One day, while playing on the street, she saw a man dragged to jail by an unfeeling officer; a crowd of rough boys and men was following with shouts and jeers. Little Catherine left her play and walked beside the prisoner to the jail.
She showed also great sympathy for suffering dumb beasts. It often happened that seeing in the field a half-fed horse she would buy some grain and then at evening carry it to the poor animal.
She raised money for sending the gospel to foreign lands and even denied herself sugar in order to contribute to missions. As a girl she was sickly, having a disease of the spine, and seemed likely to die of consumption, but by going to the seashore she regained her health in measure.
Upon her return to London she met William Booth, a young Wesleyan preacher, whose father had once been wealthy, but had died, leaving his family to struggle for a living. The young man was working as an apprentice while preaching. Though they were both poor, they joined heart and hand for soul saving and uplifting of humanity.
William became a circuit preacher in a district some thirty miles in extent. Later he became assistant pastor in a London church. He was very successful as an evangelist and many calls came for him to speak in different parts of England.
When he was but twenty-seven he was ordered by the conference to give up evangelistic work and take a small charge. But while this may have been done partly through jealousy, it proved a good school for Mrs. Booth. Here she began to conduct classes and speak on temperance.
The next settlement was in a place of about fifty thousand people. The little church numbered less than a hundred members, and about that number met on Sunday evenings. But soon the place of worship was crowded with nearly two thousand people. The chapel came to be known as the “Converting Shop.”
The stories of Mrs. Booth’s ministrations to the poor and intemperate are both pathetic and thrilling. She was of a sensitive, shrinking disposition and public speaking was a source of great dread, but feeling that God had laid this upon her, she calmly responded, and there was given her a power over the souls of people that was manifestly supernatural. Hundreds were soon converted under her speaking. Her husband’s health failed and she was constrained to take his place, which she did, and was greatly blessed. Calls came for her as well as for her husband to hold evangelistic meetings, but he was opposed by the conference to which he belonged. At last, husband and wife decided that it was his duty to resign from the conference and be free to go wherever God might call him.
He was summoned to Cornwall, where for eighteen months they worked among miners, fishermen, and all classes, with marvelous success. About one thousand professed conversion.
The beginnings of what became the Salvation Army work were had in the slums of London, where Mr. and Mrs. Booth held tent meetings and marched through the streets to advertise the meetings. Those were dark days, they were without means of support, but God raised them up a friend in Samuel Morley, a member of Parliament.
Mrs. Booth became a wonderfully effective preacher. A well known publisher offered to publish her sermons and give her the profits, and some wealthy men offered to build her a church similar to Spurgeon’s. All these offers she declined, and with her husband endured the abuse and violence of the degraded people whom they were commissioned to seek to save and the slights and sneers of the “respectable.”
They passed through a veritable baptism of fire, but to-day they are seen as the heroic pioneers of a great world-wide movement for evangelizing and elevating the neglected thousands of our great cities.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.