Katie Booth the Marechale

This is the day that … The Marechale was born, in 1858.

She was the second child of William and Catherine Booth … and she, too, was named Catherine (but usually called Katie).

At the age of 22, she was taken to Paris by her mother and left there with a small group of equally young women to introduce the Salvation Army (of which her father was the “General”) into France.

Within a week she was “sworn at, jeered at, and pelted with stones and mud …” But her incredible tenacity and sincerity of purpose gradually won through. They nicknamed her “La Capitaine” at first … and then “La Maréchale” (the Field-Marshall).

The first meetings in Paris were in a dingy building in a rough quarter, where, as the Police Sergeant described her crowd, “They have got in that crowd half the cut-throats of Paris”. Yet these hardened men were dazzled by the innocent and dedicated zeal of the young ladies pressing upon them a gospel which their religion-hating culture had denied them.

After no result from exhausting effort a Christian lady advised Katie to return to her mother in England. The reply came, “If I cannot save France, I can die for it!” Young Catherine won her first convert by going to an old washer-woman at the back of the meeting, hugging her and telling her how much she loved her.

With the assistance of a dozen other young maidens under her remarkable leadership – ever in the forefront of the battle for souls – the Maréchale planted the Salvation Army also in Switzerland, Belgium and Holland.

On 8 February, 1887, she married Arthur Sydney Clibborn (the “Hallelujah Quaker” had been his nickname when he first joined the Salvation Army!) – and the couple were known as the “Booth-Clibborns”. Ten children were to be born in the next 15 years.

Then came the clash of personalities – General Booth laying down certain laws … to be implicitly obeyed … and Katie and her husband refusing to do so. It is a sad story …

Clibborn was a pacifist and he sided with the Boers in South Africa during the Boer War. He also wanted to preach divine healing and the imminent return of Christ; two themes which echoed through the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements which followed during the twentieth century. The Booth-Clibborns became followers of Scottish born preacher, Dowie, who believed himself to be a modern-day John the Baptist. Downie published Clibborn’s endorsement and that brought great tension with William Booth.

On 10 January, 1902, the Booth-Clibbons resigned from the Salvation Army. Ten years later, when her father lay dying – and blind – she was allowed into his room “on condition that she would not say who she was” (The Heavenly Witch, by C. Scott, page 217).

On 20 February, 1939, she was widowed, and on 9 May, 1955, she herself was ‘promoted to Glory’.

Despite her severance from the Army’s ranks over half a century earlier she never slowed up in her quest for souls.

Her fare to Australia (in 1936) was paid for by Dame Violet Wills, a member of the tobacco family … although Dame Violet was ironically, a campaigner against smoking.

After meeting the Maréchale John Ridley wrote:
I trace thy fervent feet
to many a haunt of Hell;
And hear thy voice so sweet
The gospel message tell;

And sinners in their shame
And women of ill fame
Will ever bless thy name,
La Maréchale.
(The Passion for Christ, page 72).

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

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  1. Thomas H. Walker says

    When I was 8 years old my father The Reverend R.H. Walker took me on a long walk from Manaton, Devon across the moor to a stately home where the Marachale (newly widowed?) was speaking in a meeting in daytime. I remember her well. Dame Violet Wills as I recall was a regular attendee in Chudleigh Church where my father was vicar for 7 years.

    Now at the age of 85 I am at present in India for my 20th visit being blessed beyond measure as I participate daily in the ministry of the Lord Jesus.

    My loving greetings In Him, Tom a brother

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