To Battle We Go: Women Warriors
By: Dr. Steve Kellner
This column is normally about how The Salvation Army might become more effective by imitating our military services, who, after all, are mission-driven fighting forces like us. But this time it’s different. On the subject of women warriors, the military could learn a thing or two from the dear old Army.
Of course, women have been involved with our military services going all the way back to the American Revolution, but their numbers were few and their roles limited. Some women went off to war with their husbands, mostly serving in support roles behind the lines, but a famous few actually dressed as men and fought alongside them. The only woman ever to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, served as an Army surgeon during the Civil War.
It wasn’t until WWI that women were officially inducted into the military services in large numbers (albeit in a separate women’s branch) as part of the Army Nurse Corps. Although they technically served behind the lines, several of these nurses were killed or wounded while working in battlefront hospitals. And you are probably familiar with the famous WACS, WAVES, and WASPS of WWII, in which thousands of women served, doing everything from driving trucks to decoding enemy messages to shuttling bombers into combat zones.
Still, it was only very recently that combat roles were opened to qualified women, and they have served heroically in all our recent conflicts. And there has been only one woman to serve in her service’s top leadership position, Admiral Linda Fagan, 27th Commandant of the Coast Guard.
Contrast this with The Salvation Army, where women have been in frontline fighting and top leadership roles as officers and soldiers since the very beginning of the movement. William Booth wasn’t joking when he said that “my best men are women.” He regularly sent very young single women to open the work in far flung locales around the world, including the “Hallelujah Lassies” in the USA.
It is difficult on this side of the modern women’s rights movement for us to comprehend what a radical idea this was, something that the Army and William and Catherine Booth were viciously criticized for in England and elsewhere, especially by other Christian denominational leaders. Ordaining women as pastors was not only thought to be socially unacceptable and dangerous for the women involved, but downright sinful!
But the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and women have been every bit the equal of men (and then some, in my opinion) in carrying out the mission of the Army. I can’t quote statistics, but I’m willing to bet that considerably more than half of the soldiers and local officers in our territory are women. Fully half of those Salvationists who have received the Order of The Founder are women, and three of our Generals have been women. No other Christian denomination or movement to my knowledge can claim such a record.
So, watch and learn, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and now, Space Force. The Salvation Army is the world leader in women warriors!