IT TOOK the Reformation in England to break the male
stranglehold on ministry. Sects that separated from the Church of
England claimed "the priesthoodof all believers," and worshipped
together without a priestly intermediary, and with the Bible as
their supreme authority.
Growing numbers of women preachers emerged, flourishing
particularly among the Quakers and Methodists; but while women
could preach the gospel, they were generally excluded from the
But this was to change in the second half of the 19th century.
On 15 November 1870, a group of evangelists - six of them women -
met in a room off Whitechapel Road, east London, under the
chairmanship of the former Methodist minister William Booth.
The occasion marked the first annual conference of the East
London Christian Mission, an Evangelical endeavour that had had its
beginnings in a tent mission on the nearby Mile End Waste in 1865,
which was to become the Salvation Army. It had already outgrown its
east-London boundaries with the opening of a station at Croydon,
The purpose of the meeting was to form the new mission's first
constitution. This included "Section XII - Female Preachers". It
read: "Godly women possessing the necessary gift and qualifications
shall be employed as preachers . . . and they shall be eligible for
any office, and to speak and vote at all official meetings."
This statement opened the door to a new generation of female
Christian leaders, many years before women were given positions of
senior responsibility elsewhere in the Church. Among the first of
these were Pamela Shepherd, Mildred Duff, and Martha
Dr Geraldine Kew, was inspired by her grandmother Hannah
Slater Reardon, one of the early Salvation Army women
AT NINE years old, in 1845, Pamela Shepherd and her
family left their native Talywain, in Monmouthshire, to go to
London, where her father, Benjamin Morgan, worked as a
Welsh continued to be spoken in the home, particularly
under the influence of her mother, Margaret, a deeply religious
woman who had to shoulder the burden of supporting the family.
Benjamin Morgan's alcoholism claimed the lion's share of his good
wages as a skilled craftsman, and it was left to his wife to
support her children by taking in washing.
Pamela's formative years were influenced as much by her
mother's deep religious faith asby the ravages caused by her
She married young, in 1860, but suffered years of
poverty and degradation, abandoned by her husband and cut off from
her parents, who had returned to Wales. She, too, descended into
drunkenness and depression.
One evening, in the winter of 1864, she sewed two heavy
flat irons into the corners of her apron. Taking her two-year-old
daughter Kate, and her baby, Pamela, she walked along Roman Road,
in Bow, towards the canal, resolved to end her own life and that of
They were saved that night when Mrs Evans, an old friend
of her mother, caught sight of her and opened the window of her
home, "Pamela! Pamela Shepherd! Whatever are you doing down
Filled with remorse, she later that night woke her
sleeping children, urging them to pray to God to help her be a
"true mother, instead of training them for the devil".
In 1867, she was converted at the Christian Mission hall
in Poplar, east London - an experience followed a few weeks later
by "a baptism of fire, while alone in a Stepney basement cellar
where she was employed as a rag sorter". She was later employed for
two years as hall-keeper and cook with the Booths at the Christian
Mission headquarters in Whitechapel.
It was while she was there, nine years after her
penitence in Poplar, that she received an unexpected summons to new
evangelistic service in the Salvation Army. She was 42 years old,
and the mother of four daughters.
When George Railton, an early Salvationist leader, told
Pamela in September 1878 that William Booth wanted her to open the
Salvation Army's work in Aberdare, South Wales, her immediate reply
was "But I can't preach."
He reassured her. "Just tell people what the Lord has
done for you. He's cured you. Tell people about that."
Standing alone in the marketplace of Aberdare, with her
three oldest children around her, she began to speak in English to
the Saturday-evening crowds. A confession of her own deliverance
added power to the gospel of salvation which she was preaching,
clothing its message with an immediate relevance that made sense to
She subsequently worked for 11 years in London, in the
work of the Drunkards' Rescue Society. She also befriended
prostitutes, personally offering them shelter and protection. Her
practical compassion stemmed from a unique rapport established
during her darkest years.
MILDRED DUFF's birthright was one of social privilege, leavened
by high religious and moral principles. She was born in 1860 to
Colonel James Duff and the Hon. Mary Petre, into the lifestyle of
the Norfolk landed gentry.
Mildred and her sister Lilian were initiated early into the
extensive welfare work that their mother undertook for the tenants
and villagers of Westwick Park, no doubt absorbing her strong views
on "the influence of good women in society".
At the age of 14, Mildred heard C. M. Spurgeon preach in the
Metropolitan Tabernacle, in London. She wrote in her diary: "I
expect to be a missionary when I grow up, and hope to go to
Despite drawing-room gossip at Westwick Place about the "vulgar,
noisy, and irreverent" Salvation Army, Mildred heard one of
Catherine Booth's West End lectures, and noted: "Her voice, soft
but penetrating, dealt faithfully, terrifyingly, with social sins
and easy piety."
In her early twenties, she attended all-day Salvation Army
meetings in Exeter Hall, London, and evening holiness meetings at
Clapton Congress. These were "balanced" by undertaking deaconess
training with her sister at the Mildmay Mission.
She was commissioned as a Salvation Army officer before the
Army's first International Congress in London in 1886, attended by
delegates from the 19 countries and colonies in which the Army's
flag had been unfurled.
At the head of the Swedish contingent was Major Hanna
Ouchterlony, who, since 1882, had pioneered the Salvation Army in
her native country. Mildred, who was an accomplished liguist, acted
as translator on Major Ouchterlony's subsequent ten-day campaign,
afterwards accompanying her back to Sweden.
Besides her main appointment as "Training Home Mother", Mildred
became the Swedish correspondent for The War Cry.
Her recall to London in 1888, to take charge of the women
officers' training - after Emma Booth's marriage and departure for
India -placed her at the very heart of the Army's hopes for its
With the abruptness characteristic of military orders, she was
removed, after five years, from her sphere of influence at the
Training College, and placed at the head of the Slum Division.
In 1894, she embarked on what would be her final commission as a
Salvation Army officer, when she was appointed editor of the
monthly Salvation Army international magazine All the
KNOWN as "Mart the Mill Girl", born in Yeadon, near
Leeds, in 1872, Martha Chippendale followed in the traditional
mill-town pattern of becoming a "half-timer" at the age of ten -
working from 5.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. three days a week, earning
half-a-crown as a "piecer", joining broken wool and resettling the
Her father forbade her to attend nightly Salvation Army
meetings at the town hall: "I'll hammer you every time you go," he
threatened. In defiance, she continued to attend, often returning
home to blows and beatings.
But this did not prevent her conversion when - kneeling
at the penitent form between two drunken men in 1887 - she found
herself repeating the Lord's Prayer, the only prayer she
Her father was killed by a stroke in the late 1880s,
after which Martha - as eldest daughter - felt it her duty to
support her mother, even though this meant postponing her now firm
resolution to train as a Salvation Army officer.
Her eventual commission led her to Nuneaton in the
mid-1880s. There she suffered persecution, poverty, and a lack of
discernible response from those she thought to serve, which led to
a crisis of faith.
Having confronted and overcome this, Martha continued
the work in which she felt both equipped and fulfilled. With a
natural empathy with men and women alike, skills in pastoral
counselling, and natural authority in public meetings, she had
every reason to believe that the life of a field officer was to be
her sphere of Salvation Army ministry.
But her appointment, in 1901, to assist Adjutant Mary
Murray in command of the Naval and Military League - a section of
the Salvation Army which had been launched by William Booth five
years earlier, to support and energise Salvationists in the Armed
Forces - put an end to those expectations, and charted the course
of her ministry for the rest of her life.
She learned on the job how to administer the work of the
league, providing a solid foundation of experience by the time of
the outbreak of war, in 1914.
During the war, Martha succeeded in providing support
for the predominantly very young fighting men who passed into her
sphere of care and influence. She would be at the quayside to meet
ships returning from foreign waters "the moment the gangway was
lowered on board, gripping hands in glad welcome", her biographer
wrote. "She mothered the souls of thousands. . .
reward for her faithful care of the lads who were not of her