Heroines of the faith: Catherine Booth

“… The “unjustifiable application” of Paul’s advice, “ ‘Let your women keep silence in the Churches,’ has resulted in more loss to the Church, evil to the world, and dishonor to God, than any of [its] errors.” From a pamphlet written by Catherine Booth in 1859.

Catherine Booth was born Catherine Mumford in England in 1829 to Methodist parents. Her father was a coach builder and preacher. Despite (or perhaps because of) long illnesses she is said to have read the Bible through eight times by the age of 12. Because of a spinal curvature, she was unable to take part in many of the normal activities of adolescence and became a fierce proponent of temperance.

In 1851 she met William Booth, a preacher with similar interests. They were soon engaged and married three years later. They had eight children.

One of Catherine’s role models was Phoebe Palmer, who caused quite a stir by preaching at a time when women were not expected to take an active role. Catherine became convinced of women’s rights, and wrote a pamphlet (Female Ministry: Women’s rights to preach the Gospel) from which the above quote was taken. She was convinced that women have an equal right to preach in public meetings. Her arguments for women in ministry were:

  1. Women are neither spiritually nor morally inferior to men
  2. There is no Scriptural reason to deny them public ministry
  3. What the Bible urges, the Holy Spirit has ordained and blessed and so must be justified.

William and Catherine Booth worked as partners in a traveling evangelistic ministry, and Catherine was soon recognized as a powerful speaker in her own right. Initially speaking in homes and at cottage meetings, eventually she held her own campaigns. Many think she had more influence than any other men (including her husband) of her time. Her life demonstrated the validity of women in ministry.

In 1865, William and Catherine Booth began the work of The Christian Mission in London’s impoverished East End. (Note: this is the area where Tony and I practiced medicine and started a church. Even when we were there it was known as the “trash can” of London, where people who couldn’t go any lower lived. Traces of William and Catherine Booth’s work were evident even then. The area has now become gentrified.) William worked with the poor, and Catherine spoke with the wealthy urging them to help them financially. They provided social help as well as preaching the Gospel.

When the name  of the mission changed to The Salvation Army, William was known as the “General,” and Catherine became the “Mother of the Salvation Army.” She was an important contributor to the changes made, not just in their uniform but also in their beliefs. She died at age 61.

Photo Credit: http://www.salvationarmy.org.uk

Information for this article taken from here