The Generals Eva: Champions for Women and The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army historically includes women in its leadership positions, starting with co-founder Catherine Booth, who preached and championed for better pay and working conditions for women in the Victorian era. Two women named Eva — Evangeline Booth and Eva Burrows — ascended to the role of general and personally assisted The Salvation Army in times of great need. They also advanced women’s ministries during their leadership.
Evangeline Cory Booth was born to founders Gen. William and Catherine Booth on Dec. 25, 1865. This lifelong advocate reportedly preached the Gospel in her youth, and quickly ascended the ranks of The Army. By age 20 (approximately 1887), she oversaw the corps in Marylebone, England. At age 30 (approximately 1896), she came to Canada to lead The Salvation Army’s efforts there. In 1904, she replaced her sister as commander of The Salvation Army in the United States, and, on Dec. 6, 1934, became general in a ceremony at Royal Albert Hall.
Evangeline was noted for many charitable works during her time as an officer. She began a chain of residences for working women and hospitals for unwed mothers. She also led The Army’s first disasterrelief efforts in April 1906 after the great earthquake and fire in San Francisco. Evangeline organized hundreds of volunteers and a fundraiser in Union Square, New York, that garnered over $12,000. She started the Donut Lassies, a group of 250 female volunteers who set up tents serving U.S. soldiers supplies and baked goods during World War I. This group’s work is honored the first Friday of each June with Donut Day, during which specified doughnut shops give a portion of their proceeds to The Salvation Army. Evangeline served as general for five years. She died July 17, 1950, in Hartsdale, New York.
The Salvation Army was also a lifelong cause for Evangeline Evelyn “Eva” Burrows. Eva was born Sept. 15, 1929, in Newcastle Australia to Salvation Army officers Robert and Ella Burrows. She graduated from secondary school at age 17 and entered The Salvation Army International Training College in London. From there, she became a teacher at the Howard Institute in Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) and established curriculum for those schools. Eva trained hundreds of teachers in Zimbabwe, particularly Black teachers. She also became principal of Usher Institute, a secondary boarding school for girls in Zimbabwe. Eva climbed the leadership ladder in the late 1970s, commanding the Salvation Army's Social Services for Women in Great Britain in 1975 and leading territorial commands in Sri Lanka, Scotland and Australia before being elected the 13th general of The Salvation Army on May 2, 1986. In the early 1990s, she re-established The Salvation Army in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Russia following the fall of the Soviet Union. Eva retired in 1993, but continued her work with The Salvation Army, appearing at fundraisers and book signings. She died March 20, 2015, in Melbourne, Australia.
The Salvation Army Western Division (which serves Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota) today has 39 women among its leaders. The organization is grateful for all its women volunteers, employees and leaders, and reminds people to celebrate the women in their lives during the month of March, and yearround.