Faithful Heroes: William and Catherine Booth
William and Catherine Booth founded The Salvation Army.
William Booth was born on April 10, 1829 in Nottingham, England. He was the son of Samuel and Mary Moss Booth.
William was fourteen years old when his father died and was already working as an pawnbroker’s apprentice to help support his family.
He completed a six year apprenticeship as a pawnbroker to support his family. While working in this way he developed a “deep hatred for the poverty and suffering he saw daily.”
He was fifteen when he began attending the Wesleyan Chapel in Nottingham and eventually accepted Christ. A passion rose within him to help those who were down and out. He already showed a talent for sharing the gospel and took his message to the streets.
In 1855, William married Catherine Mumford. She was born on January 17, 1829 in Derbyshire, England. She was the daughter of John and Sarah Milward Mumford. Her father was a lay preacher and carriage maker.
She is described as a “serious and sensitive girl with a strong Christian upbringing. By the age of 12, she had read the Bible through eight times”. At the age of fourteen she became seriously ill and spent much time in bed. She began to write articles for magazines and took up the cause encouraging others not to drink.
Catherine was sixteen and had been struggling, when she picked up a hymn book and read ‘My God I am Thine, what a comfort Divine’. Upon reading this she accepted Christ.
Catherine met William when he came to preach at her church. They quickly fell in love and became engaged.
Three years after their engagement the couple married on June 16, 1855.
Catherine came alongside her husband in ministry work, although she was nervous at first. She often worked with young people and began to push for women to have the right to speak to groups of people.
She began speaking to people in their homes and assisting alcoholics start a new life. Eventually, she began to hold her own campaigns, separate from her husband.
William and Catherine raised eight children of their own. Two of their sons would continue their work in leading the Salvation Army. They would also adopt a child, George, whom little is known about.
In 1865, the couple began The Christian Mission. William is said to speak to the poor and Catherine to the wealthy, seeking support.
In 1878, The Christian Mission became known as The Salvation Army. The couple took no salary from the Salvation Army, but “received an allowance from a fund set up by friends”.
William Booth became known as the General and Catherine as the Army Mother. Catherine designed a flag and bonnets for the ladies and contributed to many of the ideas and beliefs to form their organization. The couple became involved as the Salvation Army grew to numerous locations.
William toured the United States several times, offering the opening prayer for the U.S. Senate in 1898 and later meeting President Theodore Roosevelt. He was a vegetarian and later in life became a Freeman of the City of London, received an honorary degree from the University of Oxford and attended the coronation of King Edward VII. He also fought to end “white slavery”, the prostitution of young girls.
On October 4, 1890, Catherine died after a battle with breast cancer. She had been taken to a home near the sea, which she loved so much. Her death is said to have been a “deep blow” for her husband and closest companion.
William Booth continued on, traveling the world many times, until his own death on August 20, 1912. Over 40,000 people attended his funeral, including Queen Mary, who sat “unrecognized at the far rear of the great hall”.
Seven of the eight Booth children became world-known preachers and leaders, each publishing songs still sung today.