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Founders William & Catherine Booth

William and Catherine Booth, with 5 of their 8 children

William and Catherine Booth with 5 of their 8 children

William Booth William Booth

The Salvation Army founder, William Booth was born in Nottingham, England, on 10 April, 1829.

He married Catherine Mumford in 1855, and the couple went on to raise 9 children.

From his earliest years, Booth was no stranger to poverty. William was just 14 when his father died, and was already working as a pawnbroker's apprentice to supplement the family income.Although he despised the trade, William completed his six year apprenticeship to help support his family. Nevertheless, working as a pawnbroker created in him a deep hatred of the poverty and suffering he saw daily

A fiery, impulsive teenager, William became a Christian at age 15 and began attending the Wesleyan Chapel in Nottingham. A passion to reach the down-and-out of Britain's cities with the Gospel of Christ became the driving force throughout his life.

Booth's talent for preaching was evident even as a teenager, and his concern for the poor led him to take his message to where the people were - on the streets. Booth later worked as a travelling evangelist with various branches of the Methodist church; however, it was through preaching in the streets of London's slums that he discovered his life's purpose and The Salvation Army was born. 

Catherine BoothCatherine Booth

Catherine Mumford was born in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, on 17 January 1829. From an early age, she was a serious and sensitive girl with a strong Christian uprbringing. By the age of 12, she had read the bible through eight times.

However, it was not until she was 16, after much struggling, that she was really converted. In her hymn book she read the words, 'My God I am Thine, what a comfort Divine', and realised the truth of this statement for herself.

At 14, Catherine was seriously ill and spent a great deal of time in bed. She kept herself busy and was especially concerned about the problems of alcohol. She wrote articles for a magazine, encouraging people not to drink.

Life together

Catherine and William met when he came to preach at her church. They soon fell in love and became engaged. During their three year engagement, Catherine was a constant support to William through her letter, in his tiring work of preaching. They were married on 16th June 1855.

Unlike most weddings, theirs was very simple with no great expense; they wanted to use all their time and money for God. Even on their honeymoon, William found himself asked to speak at meetings. Together they accepted this challenge of being used by God, before even thinking of themselves.

At Brighouse, Catherine first began to help in the work of the church. She was extremely nervous, but found the courage to speak in children's meetings. She enjoyed working with young people, however it was unheard of for women to speak in adult meetings.

Catherine was convinced that women had an equal right to speak. At Gateshead, when the opportunity was given for public testimony, she went forward to speak, marking the beginning of a tremendous ministry. Catherine's preaching challeneged and touched many people.

Catherine found the courage to speak to people in their homes, especially to alcoholics, whom she helped to make a new start in life. Often she held cottage meetings for converts.

She was also a mother with a growing family of eight children and was dedicated to giving them a firm Christian knowledge. Two of the Booth children became Generals of The Salvation Army.

In 1865 when the work of The Christian Mission began, William preached to the poor and ragged, and Catherine spoke to the wealthy, gaining support for their financially demanding work. In time, she began to hold her own campaigns.

When William Booth became known as the General, Catherine was known as the 'Army Mother'. She was behind many of the changes in the new movement, designing a flag, bonnets for the ladies and contributing to the Army's ideas on many important issues and matters of belief.

Catherine lost her battle with ill-health, dying from breast cancer on 4 October 1890. William continued on, travelling the world many times to oversee his rapidly growing Army. On 20 August 1912, William Booth was, in Salvation Army terminology, promoted to glory, at 83 years of age.

Bramwell Booth, describing the last moments of Catherine's life, wrote:

"Soon after noon, I felt the deepening darkness of the long valley of the shadows was closing around my dear mother, and a little later I took my last farewell. Her lips moved, and she gave me one look of inexpressible tenderness and trust, which will live with me for ever. Again we sang:

My mistakes His free grace doth cover,
My sins He doth wash away;
These feet which shrink and falter
Shall enter the Gates of Day.

Holding her hand, the General gave her up to God. It was a solemn and wondrous scene ...the dear General bowing over his beloved wife and companion in life's long stress and storm, and giving her, his most precious of earthly joy and treasure, to the eternal keeping of the Eternal Father. ...Their eyes met the last kiss of love upon earth - the last word till the Morning, and without a movement the breathing gently ceased, and a Warrior laid down her sword to receive her crown."

Further information   

For more information and photos, visit The Salvation Army International Heritage centre. You might also like to view our Further Reading list or contact Salvationist Supplies to browse through available books.

Blood & Fire* is the incredible story of William and Catherine Booth and the founding of The Salvation Army, brought to life by Battlefield Media through a wonderful journey in sound and drama in a three-CD, nine-episode audio drama series.

*Battlefield Media is not affiliated with The Salvation Army

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