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  Evangeline Cory Booth (1865–1950), by unknown photographer, c.1900 Evangeline Cory Booth (1865–1950), by unknown photographer, c.1900
Booth, Evangeline Cory (1865–1950), world leader of the Salvation Army, was born at 1 Cambridge Lodge Villas, Hackney, London, on Christmas day (25 December) 1865, the seventh of eight children of and his wife, Catherine Mumford (1829–1890) [see ], founders of the Salvation Army. Her name at birth was registered as Eveline. Educated at home, she was brought up like the other Booth children in a theology of ‘practical religion’ (her father and mother both wrote tracts) and in the ways of an active religious life. Bible readings and dramatizations were at the core of the household's daily programme, along with music. Like many of her siblings she went on to compose a number of well-known Salvation Army hymns. Catherine Booth also believed in the benefits of fresh air (as well as hydropathy), and Evangeline Booth became an accomplished swimmer and horsewoman.

Evangeline Booth said she found her vocation, aged ten, when she visited a London exhibition of Gustave Doré with her mother and the family's housekeeper, and saw his paintings of the crucifixion. Following her older siblings she formally entered the Salvation Army as a girl, becoming a sergeant in London in 1880 (aged fifteen), where she worked among the poor in east London slums and preached at the Salvation Army's Great Western Hall in Marylebone. In 1887 she was promoted to lead the Salvation Army's work in London, and in 1892 to manage the International Training Centre in Clapton. After a brief period leading the American Salvation Army in 1896 she was appointed national commander of the Salvation Army in Canada (1896–1904).

Booth was commander of the Salvation Army in the United States from 1904 to 1934, and became naturalized as a US citizen. Her period of office coincided with the American Salvation Army's institutional expansion and popularity. Publicity about the Salvation Army's social work during the First World War—especially the role of the Salvation Army ‘donut girls’ who supported the troops in France—triggered a newly patriotic and positive image for the movement in America. Building on this evidence of popular appeal, in 1919 Booth launched a successful fund-raising drive (the Thirteen Million Dollar campaign) for the Salvation Army's social work in America. A silent film, Fires of Faith (1919), was commissioned as part of the campaign, and produced by Famous Players-Lasky; she self-starred, conducting official business at the territorial headquarters in New York. Her administrative acumen was a key part of her reputation in the 1930s, and the American business psychologists Ewing Webb and John Morgan discussed her strategies to ‘interest and convince people’. In the 1920s and 1930s she also became a noted speaker on women's suffrage and teetotalism, promoting women's role in the home and society as a model of heartfelt devotion. She described her mother in Woman (published in 1928 in America and Britain) as the archetypal example, ‘the summation of the woman's movement’, equal in status to men in ‘social and spiritual and intellectual responsibility’.

During the 1920s Evangeline Booth was a leading figure in the movement for constitutional reform within the Salvation Army. Amid increasing discontent with the autocratic leadership of her brother , she wrote him a letter in October 1927 listing fifteen points for constitutional change. The key issue focused upon the process of appointing a general: while the founding constitution (1878) had decreed that an outgoing general should nominate his own successor the reformers argued it should be an elected position. The debate gained momentum throughout 1928, causing a widespread controversy. In December 1928 leading Salvation Army men and women met in London at the inaugural meeting of the high council of the Salvation Army, where the reformers ultimately triumphed. In February 1929 Edward Higgins was elected the new general of the Salvation Army. Evangeline Booth, who had stood for the position, came second and it was said that American Army officials celebrated her defeat because it meant she remained ‘their’ commander.

On the retirement in 1934 of Edward Higgins, another leadership election was called. Evangeline Booth, who had stood as one of five candidates, was this time successful; she was elected fourth general of the Salvation Army on 3 September 1934 (aged sixty-nine). She remained in office for five years. Her visibility was one of the central markers of her generalship. She was known throughout her career for her theatricality in addressing audiences, and as general her activities were reported frequently on international newsreels as well as in British and international newspapers.

Booth's tenure as world leader of the organization was characterized by her promotion of the Salvation Army's internationalist creed. She campaigned in Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Finland, North America, Holland, France, Denmark, Switzerland, India, Ceylon, Singapore, and the Netherlands Indies. She claimed that her wide experiences of travel had convinced her that people across the world ‘desired above all else that there should be a unifying and abiding friendship between all nations’ (The Times, 22 Feb 1939). This emphasis dovetailed with the rhetoric of the League of Nations about friendly co-operation and working across national borders. For a sincerely religious woman crossing these boundaries was also a spiritual exercise, an endeavour recognized by the International Missionary Council in the 1930s when they invited her to reflect upon the meanings of evangelism within a world church.

Booth retired as general of the Salvation Army in 1939. An elaborate celebratory pageant at Earls Court, London, was planned in her honour in September 1939, but was abandoned on the outbreak of the Second World War. Instead in October 1939 she undertook her final public engagement in London at the Regent Hall, and a pilgrimage to her father's house, in Notintone Place, Nottingham, and the Broad Street Methodist Chapel (the place of his conversion), where she unveiled a memorial to him. Towards the end of November 1939 she boarded a ship at Liverpool to return to her home in Hartsdale, New York.

Booth never married, although the story of her ‘many suitors’ was reiterated throughout her life. In London in the 1880s she adopted four children, who moved with her to Canada. Three of the children married and remained there, but Pearl Hamilton travelled with Booth to America and in 1914 began her own career in the Salvation Army, holding positions in the women's social service department and within the executive office, before becoming secretary of the divisional home league on her marriage in 1922 to a Salvation Army captain, Arthur Woodruff.

Booth received many honours throughout her life, including the American distinguished service medal (for war-time services); honorary degrees from Tufts College, Massachusetts (1921), and the University of Columbia (1939); the Fairfax medal for eminent patriotic service (1928); Vasa gold medal (Swedish, 1933); and the gold medal of the National Institute of Social Sciences (1933) and of the Humanitarian Society (1945). She remained active in Salvation Army work until her death in New York on 17 July 1950. A public sale of her estate, held at O'Reilly's Plaza Art Galleries, New York, on 13 April 1951, contained only twenty-seven lots (including thirteen books), and revealed how simple her life had been in material terms.

Of the eight siblings, Evangeline Booth was one of five who remained active in the service of the Salvation Army throughout a working life. The eldest sister, , left the movement in 1902, but three sisters remained active in it. Like Evangeline Booth, Emma Moss Booth-Tucker [see below] and Lucy Milward Booth-Hellberg [see below], progressed from domestic to international work. Marian Booth (1864–1937), who was disabled in childhood, was given the permanent rank of staff captain.

The second daughter in the family, Emma Moss Booth-Tucker (1860–1903), Salvation Army officer, born at Normanby Place, Gateshead, on 8 January 1860, was an extremely popular figure. In May 1880, aged nineteen, she was appointed manager of the first training home for Salvation Army women in Hackney, London, and became known within the Salvation Army as ‘the Consul’. In 1887 she travelled to India. She married at the Salvation Army meeting hall, Clapton, on 10 April 1888 Frederick St George de Latour Tucker (1853–1929), a widower, son of William Thornhill Tucker, of the Indian Civil Service. Frederick Tucker had resigned a position in the Indian Civil Service to work for the Salvation Army in India. They both took the surname Booth-Tucker, and after their marriage they returned to India where they directed the Salvation Army's work, adopting Indian dress and names. A diagnosis of anaemia forced her to return to England in January 1891 with her husband and their two children. The couple went on to have another four children. From early 1891 to spring 1896 the Booth-Tuckers worked as foreign secretaries of the Salvation Army's international headquarters in London, overseeing work outside Great Britain. Thereafter they took up command of the Salvation Army in America. The Booth-Tuckers initiated an extensive welfare reform programme to address poverty in New York, including workingmen's hostels, orphanages, and homes for unmarried mothers. Drawing on her earlier experiences in east London, she organized the Cellar Garret and Gutter Brigade, a group of women who dressed in working-class clothes and did social work while living alongside the poor. She and her husband also established Salvation Army farm colonies, which aimed to relocate the unemployed urban poor on rural farms in California, Colorado, and Ohio. She was at the height of her popularity when she was killed in a train accident at Dean Lake, Missouri, on 28 October 1903, when travelling back from a tour of the Colorado farm colony. 15,000 people attended her memorial service on 1 November 1903 at Carnegie Hall in New York, and a further 4000 were present at a service at the Congress Hall, Clapton.

The youngest sister, Lucy Milward Booth-Hellberg (1868–1953), Salvation Army officer, born at 1 Cambridge Lodge Villas, Hackney, on 28 April 1868, worked in Ceylon from 1889, and in India from 1891. On 18 October 1894, at the Congress Hall, Hackney, she married Emanuel Daniel Hellberg, son of Johan Hellberg, of independent means; her husband had joined the organization in Sweden in the early 1880s when a student at the university of Uppsala. They took the surname Booth-Hellberg. For two years they commanded the Salvation Army in India where, following the example of Emma Booth-Tucker and her husband, they used the names Ruhani and Raj-Singh. The couple had five children. In 1896 the couple were sent to command work in France and Switzerland and, after his death in Berlin in 1909, Lucy Milward Booth-Hellberg led the movement in Denmark, Norway, and South America. She retired from active service in 1934, and held the rank of commissioner. She died in Bromma in Stockholm on 18 July 1953.

Eve Colpus

Sources  

P. W. Wilson, The general: the story of Evangeline Booth (1935) · The Times (18 July 1950) · D. Carnegie, Five minute biographies (1946) · M. Troutt, The General was a lady: the story of Evangeline Booth (1980) · P. J. Walker, Pulling the devil's kingdom down: the Salvation Army in Victorian Britain (2001) · F. Coutts, The better fight: the history of the Salvation Army, 6: 1914–1946 (1973) · J. Larsson, 1929: a crisis that shaped the Salvation Army's future (2009) · E. Webb and J. Morgan, Strategy in handling people (1930) · b. cert. [1865] · census return, 1871 · F. Booth-Tucker, The consul: a sketch of Emma Booth-Tucker (1928) · ANB · New York Times (30 Oct 1903) · The Times (30 Oct 1903) · b. cert. [1860] · m. cert. [1888] · The Times (7 June 1909); (20 July 1953) · b. cert. [1868]

Archives  

Salvation Army Archives and Research Center, Alexandria, Virginia |  Salvation Army Heritage Centre, London


Likenesses  

photographs, after 1900, Rex Features, London [see illus.] · photographs, 1927–35, Getty Images, London · L. Putnam, photograph, 1934, PA Images, London · photographs, 1934–7, Photoshot, London · photographs, 1936, PA Images, London · R. Saidman, bromide print, 1937, NPG, London · photographs, Mary Evans Picture Library, London