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Practical Religion: A Study of the Salvation Army's Social Services for Women, 1884-1914

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posted on 2010-08-25, 08:57 authored by Gillian Ball
Historians of Victorian Britain have focused on the reclamation of prostitutes as an area which illustrates the tensions between middle class ideology, as exhibited by the rescue workers and their organisations, and the experiences of working class women. However, no rescue society has been studied in depth, and consequently the relationship between theory and practice has not been documented. This thesis examines the Salvation Army's Social Services for Women, one of the largest and most prominent rescue work agencies active in late-Victorian London. The first chapter analyses the historiography of rescue work. The principle themes identified are the appropriateness of viewing rescue work as a form of social control, or as an inspiration for feminism. Chapter 2 discusses the formative experiences of the founders of the Salvation Army, William and Catherine Booth, and it is argued that their personal experiences and religious beliefs formed the basis of their later philanthropic activities. Following from this, Chapter 3 examines the development of the Booths' ideas into a model for society which placed greatest emphasis on the responsibility of the individual. This involved a social critique which redefined gender and class relationships in terms of moral 'children' and moral 'adults'. Chapter 4 traces the organisational development of the Army's Social Services for Women, during which theory was modified by practice. Chapter 5 deals with the problematic relationship between rescue work and social purity, as evidenced in the 'Maiden Tribute' agitation of 1885, in which the Salvation Army was prominently involved. Chapter 6 investigates the rescued, their social and economic support networks, and their progress in the rescue homes, through an analysis of 1500 case histories drawn from three different periods. Chapter 7 concludes with a discussion of the contrast between the limiations of the religious perspective and the practical context of the social programme which the Booths embarked upon, and assesses its role and value in late-Victorian Britain.



Banks, J.A.

Date of award


Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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    University of Leicester Theses