Booth, Catherine (DNB01)

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BOOTH, Mrs. CATHERINE (1829–1890), 'mother of the Salvation Army,' was born at Ashbourne, Derbyshire, on 17 Jan, 1829. She was the only daughter of a family of five. Her father, John Mumford, was a coach-builder by profession, and in the earlier years of life a Wesleyan lay preacher. Her mother was a woman of unusually strong and fervent religious feeling; she preferred to educate her daughter at home,except for two years from 1841, and her influence upon her was deep and permanent. From early years Catherine was specially sensitive to religious impressions. In 1844, when her parents removed to London, she experienced what she considered her conversion and joined the Wesleyan church in Brixton. In 1848 numbers of members, known as the Reformers, were excommunicated by the Wesleyan church, among them Catherine Mumford. She joined the Reformers' chapel and worked hard in support of the congregation and its work. In 1851 William Booth, also an excommunicated Reformer, preached at this chapel and made the acquaintance of Miss Mumford. In 1862 Booth accepted the position of pastor to the Reformers at a salary of 50l. a year, and in the same year became engaged to Catherine Mumford. They were married on 16 June 1855, when Booth was appointed by the annual conference of the new connexion to carry on regularly a series of itinerant missions or 'revivals.' William Bramwell Booth, the eldest son of his parents, was born at Halifax in 1856, and the second son, Ballington, at Brighouse, Yorkshire, in 1857. In 1858 Booth began a ministry at Gateshead, and there Mrs. Booth for the first time took a share publicly in her husband's work by leading off in prayer at the conclusion of his sermon. Her daughter Catherine, afterwards Mrs. Booth-Clibborn, was born at Gateshead in the same year. It was during Mr. Booth's ministry at Gateshead that many of the methods afterwards characteristic of the Salvation Army were inaugurated. Mrs. Booth in 1860 wrote a pamphlet asserting the right of women to preach and teach, in answer to an attack made by an independent minister, the Rev. A. A. Rees, upon the practice. In the spring of 1860 Mrs. Booth made her first appearance in her husband's pulpit, and her fame as a preacher at once began to grow. In 1861 Mr. Booth resigned his position at Gateshead in order that he might give himself up to revivalistic work.

His wife everywhere accompanied him, and by 1864 had brought herself to conduct meetings single-handed whenever it seemed advisable. A third son, Herbert, was born in 1862; four more daughters made up the family to eight. In 1865 the Booths came to London, and the Salvation Army is generally held to have been founded by the formation of the 'Christian Revival Association' in the tent used for revivalistic services in the quaker burial-ground in Whitechapel. At this time Mrs. Booth began to address meetings in the west end, in the Polytechnic, and the Kensington assembly rooms, and other places, and her power of impressing the rich proved as remarkable as her influence over the masses. In 1867 she conducted a mission at Margate with great success, and in 1873 another, equally remarkable in its results, at Portsmouth. In 1877 the term 'Salvation Army' was adopted, and the military idea and discipline elaborated in various directions. During the next five years the movement made gigantic progress, and became one of the largest religious organisations of the world. Mrs. Booth gave her husband invaluable support while the army was growing up, and devoted herself especially to all measures tending to improve the position of women and children in great cities. In 1885 she exerted herself strenuously to secure the passing of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, writing letters to the queen and to Mr. Gladstone, and addressing many meetings in London and the provinces. During the end of 1886 and the whole of 1887, in a series of meetings in Exeter Hall and the great towns of the provinces, Mrs. Booth may be said to have reached the height of her influence as a speaker and revivalist. In her youth Mrs. Booth was a sufferer from spinal weakness, and continually during her arduous life she was prostrated by severe illness. In 1875 she was in danger from an acute attack of angina pectoris, and in 1888, after some months of pain and depression, was pronounced to be suffering from cancer. After an illness endured with heroic courage she died at Clacton-on-Sea on 4 Oct. 1890. Her body 'lay in state' at the Congress Hall of the Salvation Army, Clapton, and her funeral at Olympia was attended by a gathering supposed to number thirty-six thousand.

This account is the merest outline of a series of evangelistic labours which rival the efforts of Wesley and Moody. It was due in the main to Mrs. Booth's genius and capacity that the position and work of women in the Salvation Army became so distinctive and original a feature of its organisation. It is impossible yet to estimate the full significance of the Salvation Army as a religious, movement and a religious sect, and only when that estimate is made can Mrs. Booth's service to her generation be understood. It may meanwhile be noted that those special methods of the army which might be criticised as irreverent or sensational, heartily as they were, accepted by Mrs. Booth, were in her case always kept wholesome and harmless by her deeply earnest and spiritual temperament. Her passionate, reverent, and courageous faith was invaluable to her husband's work, and a true cause of all that is best and most permanent in the methods of the Salvation Army.

Mrs. Booth wrote copiously in the publications of the Salvation Army. Among her collected papers and addresses may be specially noted: 1. 'Papers on Practical Religion,' 1879, 8vo. 2. 'Papers on Aggressive Christianity,' 1881, 8vo. 3. 'Papers on Godliness,' 1882, 8vo. 4. 'The Salvation Army in relation to the Church and State, and other Addresses,' 1883, 8vo. 6. 'Life and Death. Reports of Addresses delivered in London,' 1883, 8vo. 6. 'Popular Christianity: a Series of Lectures delivered in Princes Hall, Piccadilly,' 1887, 8vo.

[The Life of Catherine Booth, the Mother of the Salvation Army, by her son-in-law, F. de L. Booth-Tucker, in two large volumes (1892), gives a voluminous and detailed account of her life and labours. There is a useful short sketch in Four Noble Women, by Jennie Chappell, 1898. A Life by Mr. W. T. Stead is announced.]

R. B.