They were unlikely evangelists. Eighteen-year-old Rose Clapham stood with her colleague, Jenny Smith, and invited hundreds of world-weary coal miners in Yorkshire, England, to a meeting at the local theater. At that 1878 meeting, Rose, an uneducated factory worker, persuaded 700 men to make decisions for Christ 140 of whom constituted the beginnings of a new church.
"Hallelujah lasses" were making The Salvation Army one of the most effective missions in England. The inspiration behind the ministry of these young, working-class women was Catherine Booth, co-founder of The Salvation Army.
Born in 1829, Catherine was raised in the pious, sheltered world of small town, Victorian England; her mother was a model of Methodist piety. As a teenager, Catherine suffered from curvature of the spine and was forced to lay in bed months at a time. She read voraciously, especially the writings of Charles Finney and John Wesley, who helped her recognize her own need for salvation.
When people suggested that a women's place was in the home, Catherine wondered if the Christian church, which preached a liberating gospel to both men and women, could keep women from expressing their gifts. She eventually concluded that an errant interpretation of Paul's comment about women keeping silent in church resulted in "loss to the church, evil to the world, and dishonor to God."
In the 1850s, she married William Booth, a young preacher who was making a name for himself. When she shared her emerging convictions with her new husband, he wrote her, "I would not stop a woman preaching on any account." He added that neither would he "encourage one to begin."1