Wednesday, May 04, 2011

May 4: Marie Booth (1864-1937)

[visual description: a drawing of Marie Booth as a young woman, in profile, head bowed over folded hands; she has her hair in a low bun, and is wearing glasses and a high-collared jacket]

It's hard to imagine more formidable parents than Catherine and William Booth, the founders of the Salvation Army. Intensely religious and endlessly energetic in the pursuit of their causes, they had eight children, two of whom became "generals" in the Salvation Army. In fact, daughter Marie was the only one of the Booth children who didn't work for the Salvation Army.

Marian Billups "Marie" Booth, born on this date in 1864, had an illness (or, in some accounts, an accident) in early childhood that "rendered her too delicate to take her place beside her brothers and sisters in their public work" (Booth-Tucker, The Life of Catherine Booth (1872), p. 534). Her sister Evangeline recalled an incident from their childhood that will perhaps sound familiar to anyone with a close sibling:
My mother often said that our sister Marie, two years older than I, was her most beautiful baby. But at a very early age smallpox weakened her health and she could not profit by study as did the rest of us, nor in later years take part in public life. Being nearest to her in age, my mother asked me to make it my duty to help her with her lessons and see that she had a place in the games.

One day she failed to grasp the intricacies of a French translateion and our governess, becoming irritated, took hold of her beautiful hair and pulled her head first one way and then the other... and my small hand smote the cheek of the governess. I was ordered to bed without lunch or supper. ...

For two days I refused to say I was sorry for the reason I could not say so truthfully, after which my mother returned.... It might have been right to defend Marie but she was sure I was sorry for the way I had done it. I still wanted to say "No," but I caught the dimness in my mother's eyes and I replied, "Nearly." I was nearly sorry.

(From P. W. Wilson, General Evangeline Booth of the Salvation Army (1948), pp. 44-45.)
Marie attended public family events and held the rank of "staff captain" in the organization. She died in 1937, age 72, and was buried with her parents.

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