Evangeline "Eva" Booth (1865-1950)

Eva Booth

Evangeline “Eva” Booth was born in London, England, to the Booth family that founded the Salvation Army.  They were an unconventional group of evangelicals Christians from the East End of London who held outdoor meetings to convert to their form of Methodism, known as Salvationism.  William Booth, Eva’s father, was the founder of these missionaries, and he soon left the Methodist Church in England and became a traveling evangelicalist.  Known as the General for his position as the general superintendent of the group, William Booth and his wife and children worked with the first converts to their Salvationist teachings  --  prostitutes, thieves, gamblers, drunks, and the poverty-stricken of London’s East End. 

Their message spread to Philadelphia when Eliza Shirley, a lieutenant in the General’s Salvation Army, moved to Philadelphia to be with her parents. She set up the first Salvationist meeting in the United States in 1879, and their brand of belief quickly became popular.  Other members soon followed, creating a transatlantic movement. 

Eva Booth worked in her father's army for several years in England before he asked her to go to the United States to resolve problems between her brother, Ballington Booth, and her father, the General.   Ballington resigned his position, and Eva was able to restore positive public relations with the American division of the Army. 

Her sister Emma and her husband soon in 1896 took over the Salvation Army in the United States, while Eva moved to Canada to assume leadership there.  When Emma died, Eva became the new head of the American Salvation Army in 1904.  During her thirty-year tenure as Commander of the American branch, Eva continued the evangelical efforts of the Army, as well as expanding the social services offered by the organization.  Food shelters, rescue homes for “fallen women,” hospitals for unwed mothers, prison work, aid for released convicts, and salvage brigades for the unemployed were just of few of the Salvation Army’s social services. In 1906, the Army’s emergency disaster service was created in response to the San Francisco earthquake and fire. 

By the time that Eva Booth became an American citizen in 1923, her work was known throughout the International Salvation Army, which had spread to all corners of the world.  In 1934, Evangeline was elected General of the entire Salvation Army, prompting her return to the organization’s headquarters in England.  For five years she served as head of the Army, traveling between eighty counties and colonies where Salvation Army outposts were established. She retired from the Salvation Army in 1939, having created a legacy that continues to this day.  She also composed several hymns that still are sung.     

Works Cited:

Wisbey Jr., Herbert A., Eds. James, Edward T., Janet Wilson James, and Paul S. Boyer, Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971), 204-207.

Weatherford, Doris, American Women’s History: An A to Z of People, Organizations, Issues, and Events (New York: Prentice Hall General Reference, 1994), 46.

Weatherford, Doris, Milestones: A Chronicle of American Women’s History (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1997), 181, 250.

The Salvation Army, “History,” web page, 2000-2009. http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/www_usn_2.nsf/vw-dynamic-index/816DE20E46B88B2685257435005070FA?Opendocument