The founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth, was born in Nottingham, England, on April 10, 1829.
From his earliest years, William was no stranger to poverty. he was only 14 when his father died and was already working as an apprentice moneylender to supplement the family’s income.
As a moneylender, William saw poverty and suffering on a daily basis. By the time she finished her six-year apprenticeship, she had developed a deep hatred for him.
William, a passionate and impulsive teenager, became a Christian at age 15 and began attending the local Wesleyan chapel. there he developed the passion that would be the engine of his life; reach the cities of great britain through the gospel of christ.
William, a gifted preacher from a young age, went on to work as a traveling evangelist with the Methodist Church. But it was through preaching on the streets of London’s slums that he discovered his life’s purpose and the Salvation Army was born.
“Mother” of the Salvation Army, Catherine Mumford was born in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, on January 17, 1829.
From an early age she was a serious and sensitive girl with a strong Christian background. By the age of 12, she is said to have read the Bible eight times.
At 14, Catherine got sick and spent a lot of time in bed. she kept busy, especially concerned with alcohol problems. she wrote articles for a magazine, encouraging people not to drink.
But at age 16, he came fully to his faith. As she read the words ‘My God, I am Yours, what a divine comfort’ in her hymnbook, she realized the truth of them for herself.
Catherine, a gentle woman with a powerful appeal, would go on to co-found The Salvation Army and prove to be an inspiration to women in difficult times.
catherine and william met when he came to preach at her church. they soon fell in love and got engaged. During their three-year engagement, William continued his work as an itinerant evangelist. Catherine was a constant support for William, writing letters of encouragement on his travels.
they were married on June 16, 1855.
Together, William and Catherine embarked on a lifelong journey to answer God’s call to bring the gospel to people. While William was a natural speaker, Catherine was a quiet woman and not used to speaking in meetings. It took time for her to find her voice, but she was driven by the conviction that women had the same rights as men to speak. She became a fearless speaker, known for her gentle manner but her powerful appeal, counseling alcoholics in her homes and organizing country house gatherings for new believers.
They were also the parents of a growing family of eight children, who were raised with a strong Christian upbringing and a great love for their god’s mission. Two of her children, Bramwell and Evangeline, would become Salvation Army generals.
in 1865, william, now an independent evangelist, along with catherine founded the christian mission. William preached to the poor while Catherine spoke to the rich to gain support for her financially demanding job. Over time, he began running his own fundraising campaigns.
It wasn’t until 1878 that the Christian mission became known as the Salvation Army. Modeled after the military with William and his fellow ministers as part of God’s army, seeking salvation for the masses. William was made the first general and his ministers became “officers”.
Catherine became known as “the mother of the army” and continued to be a strong voice in Salvation Army ideas on social issues and matters of belief.
With its strong focus on the downtrodden and dispossessed, the Salvation Army began to grow beyond Britain’s borders. During William’s lifetime, the military would be established in 58 countries and colonies. His mission was and continues to be guided by William’s book “In Darkest England and the Way Out”, which charts a revolutionary approach to social engagement never before undertaken by a church.
Catherine and William worked tirelessly to bring the gospel to all, establishing a movement in the form of the Salvation Army. But, on October 4, 1890, Catherine lost her continuing battle with ill health. Her son, Bramwell, described her death as “a warrior who laid down her sword to receive her crown.”
William continued on for many years, traveling around the world to oversee his growing army. On August 20, 1912, William Booth was, in Salvation Army terms, promoted to glory.
Though they passed, both William and Catherine continue to be guiding influences in The Salvation Army and stand out as the most powerful examples of how God uses the ordinary to create the extraordinary.
for more information on william and catherine or the salvation army foundation you can:
- visit the salvation army international heritage center site
- contact Salvationist Supplies for a list of available books and CDs