Carrie's involvement with the Slum Sisters (Salvation Army)

by Jennifer A. Miskov

In the spring of 1892, while on a visit to back to New York, Carrie Judd Montgomery participated with the Salvation Army in their ministry in the slums. In conjunction with Mrs. Ballington Booth, a small group of women who became known as the “Slum Sisters,” put aside their nice Salvation Army clothes and dressed in a humbler manner so that they could be more approachable to reach those on the streets. 

This ministry started in 1886 when two women moved into two “tiny rooms” in one of the most “degraded” places in the city so that they could be with the people they were trying to reach.[1] William Booth remarked that some of the women who did this work were those “who have not been afraid to exchange the comfort of a West End drawing-room for service among the vilest of the vile, and a residence in small and fetid rooms whose walls were infested with vermin.”[2] 

Carrie saw that these workers wanted to set about their “mission of love in the most quiet and unobtrusive manner, until they had worked their way into the confidence of the people around them.”[3] They helped the sick, fed the poor, cleansed the homes of the “Slummers,” cared for babies, and helped people find work. They also visited the “saloons and low dives” three times a week to talk to people about salvation and invite them to their Gospel meetings. They had services the other three nights of the week as well.[4]
One Saturday night while still in New York, during one of the peak times of “sinful revelry” in the saloons, Carrie accompanied these “slum sisters” in their outreach to the girls on the streets. Carrie recalled that “for three hours we tramped in and out of saloons and houses of ill-resort, preaching the Gospel, as far as was possible…” Carrie had some previous experience of doing similar work but noticed that the act of wearing simpler attire made her more approachable to the people than before. Through her visit to the slums of New York City, she learned that many of the girls were tricked into this kind of lifestyle, forced into prostitution one way or another. She believed that many times the sins done against them were greater than the sins they committed.[5]
These bold Salvation Army women went into the saloons and sang hymns and shared with the people there. To have the courage to preach on the streets as well as sing hymns in saloons was a brave thing to do, especially as a woman. While Quakers and some Methodists gave women some freedom to preach, Evangelicalism as a whole had not arrived at that place of equality for men and women.[6] Carrie took extreme steps to see people converted to Christianity regardless of the social or religious trends in her day. The time spent with the “Slum Sisters” was eye opening for Carrie and caused her to initiate a similar work in her home city on her return. 

When she returned back to the West Coast, Carrie capitalized on the fact that Salvation Army women could “go unprotected into any of the saloons and dives.”[7] She recounted a story to her readers of her Saturday night outing to the saloons and “evils lurking” in San Francisco. She was accompanied by a young girl captain in the Salvation Army. Beginning their night at 9:30pm and dressed in their Army uniforms, they went out to the bars filled with men who just got their pay checks and wanted to spend it all on alcohol. 

Carrie Judd Montgomery later on in the 1890s in the traditional Salvation Army Uniform. Special thanks and copyright permission come from the Salvation Army for the use of this photo.

Their way to get into the saloons was through selling the Army’s magazine called the War Cry; Carrie also gave out her healing tracts. They went to dance halls and talked with young girls whom they found out their mothers had no clue where they were. After the saloons, they walked down dark alleys to give out more of the tracts. They collected several names and numbers so they could meet up with the people during the daytime a few days later. They finished their street ministry and returned home at 2am. 

Carrie, then about 34 years old, wrote that “with sore heart and weary feet, and yet with a consciousness that I had been ‘about my Father’s business,’ I reached our abiding place and found that my dear husband had not retired to rest, but had long been on his knees, asking the Lord to mightily use His little, weak messengers, and to fill them with the glorious power of the Holy Ghost.”[8]
 I'm inspired by this story, are you??? 

 ©Jennifer A. Miskov (feel free to quote as long as you correctly reference and link back to this article)

[1] Possibly Mrs. Cook and Mrs. Webb were the two who started this ministry initially in London.
[2] General William Booth, Chapter 5, Section 1 entitled “A Slum Crusade- Our Slum Sisters” in In Darkest England and the Way Out, 1890 1st edition (London: The Salvation Army, 1890). In this same section are two first hand accounts from journalists who spent time with the slum sisters and report first hand their experience of what it was like and the conditions surrounding their life in the slums. Also in “Darkest England,” in an address delivered by General Booth in San Francisco December 17, 1894 and reported by Cecilia Decker in Triumphs of Faith 15:2 (Feb 1895) and TF 15:3 (March 1895), he told some stories of these “slum angels” as well as some graphic stories of the poor ones the Salvation Army rescued.
[3]Carrie Judd Montgomery, “Salvation Army Work in the New York Slums,” Triumphs of Faith 12:5 (May 1892), 108. At the time when Carrie wrote this, there was then 22 Slum Sisters involved in the ministry as well as a Rescue Home being built to help the girls get off of the streets.
[4] Booth, Chapter 5, Section 1 entitled “A Slum Crusade- Our Slum Sisters.”
[5] Carrie Judd Montgomery, “Salvation Army Work in the New York Slums,” TF 12:5 (May 1892), 108-109.
[6] David Bebbington,  A History of Evangelicalism: People, Movements and Ideas in the English-Speaking World, vol. 3 in The Dominance of Evangelicalism: The Age of Spurgeon and Moody (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2005), 225.
[7] “Wealthy Warriors: A Rich Salvationist and His Famous Wife,” The Illustrated Buffalo Press, May 8, 1892, p. 4.
[8] Carrie Judd Montgomery, “Through the Darkest San Francisco” TF 12:10 (Oct 1892), 220.

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