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Women in the Salvation Army
Women within the Salvation Army have been important since the very beginning. The first women of the Salvation Army, Catherine Booth, was a great influence not only upon her husband, whom she was devoted to but also an influence and devoted to the souls of others as well. With her husband William, she set out to build the Salvation Army from its humble beginnings, the Christian Mission. She was affectionately known as the "Army Mother." In her world, women had few rights, no place in the professions and a minimal presence in church leadership. Catherine decided to change this notion in 1859 with her book, Female Ministry: Or, Woman's Right to Preach the Gospel. Within the work, she lays the argument that women are fit to preach by claiming God, has given to women a graceful form and attitude, winning manners, persuasive speech, and above all, a finely-toned emotional nature, all of which appear to us eminent natural qualifications for public speaking. These views were prior to meeting William but became more engrained within the Salvation Army as it grew. Catherine was also famous for designing the flag of the Salvation Army and for giving the reason for the flag; Catherine quoted from the Bible, “He will raise a flag among the nations and assemble the exiles of Israel. He will gather the scattered people of Judah from the ends of the earth. – Isaiah 11:12”, proclaiming that the Salvation Army was fulfilling a prophecy of sorts.
Besides Catherine, there have been other women who were just as important if not more so than her. One of these great women leaders within the Salvation Army was Eliza Shirley. Eliza, a young woman of 16 when she began her tutelage in the Salvation Army, became the face of the Army in America. When she was 17 years old, Eliza, following her father, who was also a Salvationist, to America, because he wanted to begin the Salvation Army in America. Being a Lieutenant within the Army, Eliza was granted permission from William Booth to establish an Army in America. With the help of her mother, Annie, they became known as the “Two Hallelujah Females”. Though they didn't have any standard uniforms, drums, or any of the glitter that attracted crowds, people flocked out of curiosity to their open-air meetings. Eventually, the police told them they couldn't gather on the street anymore. They found a vacant lot several blocks away, but afterward, no one followed their march to the hall. Though the turnout was not what they hoped for, they continued to preach. Eliza sent word to Booth, who in turn sent George Railton to America to assist Eliza in help “plant a seed of God’s own sowing.”
It was from this decision to send Railton, that helped bolster more women into the ranks of the Salvation Army. Women were already embracing the Salvation Army in England, and like Eliza were being put into positions of advancement. Railton seeing this trend, and the recent success of Eliza offered an idea of making up the American expedition he was to go on, of women. He believed this would show what women could do, and it would ensure, through the simple fact of the marriages, he confidently expected each to arrange for herself on the other shore, that the Army in America would be self-supporting from the outset.
From these women, another, whose bloodline is rich within the Salvation Army arises, Evangeline Booth. Eva, as she was named after Eva St. Claire, was the seventh child born to William and Catherine Booth. She was born in London on Christmas Day in 1865 to William and Catherine Booth, who both believed women and men could be used equally by God. It was from this belief that Eva did great things within the Salvation Army, though this had to wait until she was 15 years old.
In 1896, Booth ordered Eva to Canada-a great responsibility which she handled well. That same year, she traveled to New York and with her persuasive oratory, she kept most of the officers from joining her brother Ballington when he formed his own organization, the Volunteers of America. By 1904, she was given command in the United States. At this time, on the advice of friends, she changed her name from Eva to Evangeline. She was an excellent athlete and played several instruments. In fact, many of her songs are sung in the Army today.
As National Commander, she was largely responsible for The Salvation Army's volunteers who served as chaplains and "Doughnut Girls" during World War I. This program alone, set up by Eva, eclipsed the rest of the Army’s welfare service, and that of other agencies as well. During her 30 years as America's commander, she instituted many changes, including the division of the country into four territories. On November 11, 1934, Evangeline became the Army's fourth general. She left America on the highest crest of love and popularity she had ever known and retained her American citizenship.
Besides these few women mentioned, women, in general, have been a huge factor of the Salvation Army. From the Doughnut Girls to women taking leadership roles throughout the Army, “every woman, man, and child to will be able to preach the Gospel and win souls for Jesus sake” Commander Debi Bell, Salvation Army. From the women of yesterday to the women of today, all are equally important to the success of the Salvation Army.