Catherine Booth, a founder member of the Salvation Army, was born Catherine Mumford, in Sturston Street, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, in 1829, daughter of a coach builder.
The family moved first to Boston in Linconshire then to Brixton in London.
At an early age Catherine wrote articles to magazines warning of the dangers of alcohol and became a supporter of the national Temperance Society.
She married William Booth, with whom she shared the same commitment for social reform, on June 1855 at Stockwell New Chapel and began preaching in 1860, developing a reputation as an outstanding speaker.
In 1864 the couple began the Christian Mission in London's East End which later developed into the Salvation Army, where women officers enjoyed equal rights with men officers. This was at a time when it was generally believed that a woman's place was in the home and it caused much hostility initially , from both politicians and the Church.
Catherine Booth organized Food for the Million shops where the poor could buy a cheap meal and at Christmas, hundreds of meals were distributed to the needy.
One of Catherine Booth's campagns was against the use of sweat labour in the match making industry, where women worked long hours dipping match heads into yellow phosphorus. The toxic fumes given off by this chemical caused a necrosis of the bone which often led to an early and painful death. Red phosphorus was available, which was safe but more expensive. Catherine Booth died in 1890 and to continue her fight against the use of the dangerous substance, the Salvation Army opened its own match factory with much improved conditions and wages for its workforce, forcing the sweatshops, through bad publicity, to reconsider their practises, which they eventually did.
Catherine and William Booth had 8 children all of whom became active in the Salvation Army.
A small commemorative plaque sits above the door of the terraced house where she was born and there is also a memorial to her in the War Memorial Recreation Ground at Ashbourne.
Return to Derbyshire People menu