Do You Know Who Held The First Salvation Army Meeting in America?

Captain Eliza Shirley

In recognition of National Women’s History Month, this week we feature Eliza Shirley.

Eliza Shirley- held the first Salvation Army meeting in America.

Eliza Shirley, born in 1863 to Amos and Annie Shirley, was raised to be a proper Victorian young lady in 19th Century England. Though trained in all the manners and customs to become a lady of the manor, Eliza longed for more than an ordinary middle class life.

When she was just fifteen years old, the Salvation Army marched into her hometown and began an effort led by women preachers that came to be known as the Hallelujah Lassies. In true Salvation Army fashion, these ladies held open-air meetings in poor neighborhoods in many cases in front of taverns. Their mission? To reach the poorest of the poor, whom no one else cared about, with the saving message of Jesus Christ.

Eliza was so affected by the preaching of these women that she dedicated her life to God’s service and wanted to become a Salvation Army worker.

On October 1, 1878, Eliza Shirley gave a testimony in front of William Booth and his entourage and later was appointed Lieutenant Eliza Shirley in 1879.

On October 5, 1879, Eliza held the first Salvation Army meeting in America. Initially only a few Philadelphians were attracted to the meetings, but by January 1880, the work had expanded so much that Eliza and a young Philadelphian girl opened a second corps.

General Booth’s reply to the American success was the promotion of Eliza to captain.

In her retirement she loved to visit her family, now many of them officers and soldiers in the Army, and delighted in her grandchildren who later would keep up the family tradition of service for the Lord through the Army.

This week we salute Captain Eliza Shirley!


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