Catherine is best known for her work with her husband, William Booth, in founding The Salvation Army. She was deeply religious and she pioneered the rights of women to preach. But it should not be forgotten that she was a staunch teetotaller. Even before her marriage, she was chastising William for taking a glass of port ‘for health reasons’. She told him in no uncertain terms to mend his ways. She strongly objected to the use of fermented wine at communion.
She travelled the country preaching and lecturing on temperance. She would visit house to house, deliberately seeking out drunkards and trying to persuade them to sign the pledge. She would ask the wives where other drunkards lived – “They always knew”, she declared. Her practical, hands-on approach brought great hope and encouragement to people and she tried to ensure they had on-going support when she and William left the area.
The Salvation Army’s magazine The War Cry frequently carried emotive cartoons depicting the damage alcohol abuse caused to families.
Not surprisingly, brewers and publicans frequently objected to the work of the Salvation Army. In some areas, they went so far as to set up ‘Skeleton Armies’ in opposition. These were formed from the local youths, fuelled by free drink. So a Salvation Army rally would be met by a drunken rabble from the Skeleton Army who would attack them with bricks and stones and rush to seize the Salvationists’ flag. Pitched battles frequently ensured and on several occasions The Riot Act was read. Sleepy towns, like Basingstoke in Hampshire, found their lives disrupted by such events.
Just another example of how the temperance movement left its mark on the country.