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Catherine Booth

Catherine Booth, wife of Salvation Army founder William Booth, was known as the “Army Mother”. In her world, women had few rights, no place in the professions and a minimal presence in church leadership. Nonetheless, in her marriage to William Booth, she became an evangelist, preacher and theologian, and co-founder of The Salvation Army.

As a child, Catherine Booth was bright and tenacious despite long illnesses. By age 12, she had thoroughly studied the Bible from cover to cover—eight times. During her life, she became one of the most popular preachers of her era.

A prolific writer, Catherine Booth explored universal questions and provided forthright answers. She believed Christians must be passionate about their faith, that if we are indifferent we can lose the capacity for love and service. She wrote: ‘He doesn’t ask you to go to chapel or join the church and pray...but to get down and give up your heart to Him, to choose whom you will serve, and do it at once, and everything else will follow.’

In 1860 Catherine and William Booth attended Chapel in Gateshead. William was preaching in the pulpit and Catherine was sitting in the congregation. As he finished speaking William saw Catherine leave her seat and make her way to the front. He leaned over the pulpit and asked: “What is the matter?” “I want to say a word,” Catherine replied.

William then addressed the congregation and said, “My dear wife wants to say a word”. He then sat down and Catherine mounted the pulpit. She told the congregation of her disobedience to the voice of the Holy Spirit telling her to be courageous and speak in public about Jesus. As she confessed her own weaknesses in public, members of the congregation were in tears as they listened to this godly woman. News quickly spread through the town that a woman had preached, and from then onwards she was in great demand as a preacher.

All this would never have happened had not William Booth allowed Catherine to speak. He recognised her abilities, her spirituality and her love for souls and he gave her the opportunity to join him in a shared ministry.

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