Emma Booth -Tucker “The Consul”
by Frances Dingman –
Emma was the family’s comforter, guide and support, her life cut short at the peak of her effectiveness for the Army. Had circumstances been different, could her presence have changed the course of the Booth family’s difficult years?
She was considered the quiet one of the family. For her, the limelight, the heat and hurry of public life held no attractions, but many terrors. In spite of this, she stepped forward with a passion for souls that led her into a prominent place in The Salvation Army.
Emma Moss Booth was born in January 1860, when her parents were 30. When she was a month old, her mother entered the pulpit and made her first public address. At seven she sought salvation, and at nine gave her first testimony, inviting a company of poor children to Jesus. Shortly after this, the shock of a severe injury to her hand left her with a timid nature. Because of this, as her elder brothers and sister joined their parents in their campaigns, Emma was gradually given responsibilities at home. When her favorite brother, Bramwell, came home with a baby whose mother’s dying wish was for him to take her child, Emma was charged with his care. This boy, Harry Andrews, became a legendary missionary physician in India.
Emma speaks up
The family feared that Emma would never be equal to the nervous strain of public speaking. Then, once when away at the seaside, the call of duty drew her out and she made her first public effort. A woman evangelist was struggling with a lot of rough, poor people, and asked Emma to help her. One night, Emma went onto the platform, took a hymn book, and began as though she had been at it for a year. “Five souls sought salvation–a real triumph for this place,” wrote her mother.
When Emma turned 20, the Founder entrusted her with the first women cadets to train for officership. By example and boundless love and effort, Emma put into her cadets the principles her mother had instilled in her, but also the love, faith and knowledge of God which were her own strength.
“She saw possibilities of beauty and usefulness in the Army in every cadet,” wrote Commissioner Mildred Duff. “The most unlikely and unlovely specimens she enthused with her own faith and vision until we saw them rise up to what she, and nobody else, thought possible.”
In those days the bread-and-butter bill at the Training College was a real difficulty. There were times when Emma had to go out herself and get money to keep things going. She would tell the girls, and ask them to pray for her. Off she would go, and by and by come back radiant, waving a check and saying, “See what your faith has helped to bring.” Then she would send them out to do difficult things. No one thought of saying, “No.”
Tucker enters the scene
Frederick Tucker was a former judge in the India civil service who had become enthused with the Army’s work and had led the first contingent of soldiers to invade Bombay in 1882. Well-read and from an aristocratic background, he contrasted with the majority of the early officers. His group gained acceptance in India by dressing, eating and living like the people. His wife, several years his senior, was a faithful worker, but soon succumbed to the climate and diseases of the country.
Returning to London to organize a new delegation of 50, Tucker met Emma for the second time and fell in love with her. “I never thought I would meet anyone so young who would be so devoted to the work!” he exulted. In 1888, he and Emma were married by the General. Catherine Booth, who had just been told of her fatal illness, gave her blessing. Tucker caused quite a stir in his Indian turban, dhotee and bare feet. Some were surprised to find that he was an Englishman. In accordance with Booth’s wishes, they took the hyphenated name “Booth-Tucker.”
Emma adopted the Indian name “Raheeman” (Mercy). Without reserve she entered into the rough, pioneering war in that country. Her sincerity attracted people to her as she visited the villages and spoke in large cities. Their plans were deferred when she was called to London to help nurse her mother. In 1890, after Catherine’s promotion to Glory, she returned to India, and vigorously plunged into the work. Unfortunately, a sudden and dangerous collapse brought fears for her life. Though it was difficult for her to keep her husband from his life-work, it became necessary for them to return to England. Youngest sister Lucy was left in charge.
Returns to England
For a term at International Headquarters, as joint Foreign Secretary with her husband, she worked with the Founder and Chief of the Staff, and became more in touch with the worldwide interests of the Army than ever before.
Three children: Kris, Motee and Mina, had joined their family, and in 1896 Tancred was born. The young baby was ill at the time when Ballington and Maud resigned from the Army, leaving the work in the United States in jeopardy. Though Booth had counted on their help at International Headquarters, it was urgent that he send Emma and Frederick to take over and help mend the breach. Facing the decision hardest for a mother to make, Emma left Tancred in the care of loving nurses and went where her Army duty lay.
Shortly after their arrival in New York came the word that the baby had not survived. Bramwell conducted the service as he was laid to rest in the family plot. The public had harsh words for her: those who did not understand that she had put her duty to God above that to her child.
Meanwhile, in America…
Emma’s dynamic sister Eva had been sent to “hold the fort” during the first dark days of Ballington’s defection. Though Eva had done much to persuade many prominent officers to stay with their father’s Army, the Booth-Tuckers faced an immediate and severe challenge. Not quite as charismatic as Ballington and Maud, they began work with such grace that the work once again went forward. While both were Commissioners in their own right, Booth-Tucker was called Commander and Emma was given the special title of “Consul.” They shared equally in command of the country’s work.
There was continued development during their years in America, and many triumphs in Salvation Army warfare. Booth-Tucker launched with enthusiasm into the Farm Colony scheme that had been set forth in Booth’s “Darkest England and the Way Out.” He traveled with a committee to select sites for the first colonies, settling on Fort Herrick, outside Cleveland; Fort Romie, near Monterey, Calif.; and Fort Amity, in Colorado. It was Emma who gained the respect and friendship of prominent men such as Senator Mark Hanna, who opened doors for the Army. The Auxiliaries established by Ballington and Maud Booth continued to grow. She particularly excelled in working with officers, many of whom had become discouraged by the difficulties of the past years. Emma plunged whole-heartedly into the prison ministry already in progress. She presented dramatic lectures, enhanced by tableaux and music. In 1903 she spearheaded the evangelical “Red Crusade” using the color in special uniforms, signs, and on War Cry pages.
Tour ends in tragedy
On October 28, 1903, Emma visited the Amity Colony. Accompanied by Colonel Thomas Holland, National Colony Secretary, and staff, she then left to meet her husband in Chicago. The train had reached Dean Lake, Mo., when the brake rod to a tourist sleeper dropped down and caught on a switch, causing derailment. Holland had just gone forward to consult with the Consul when their car was the first to leave the tracks. Emma’s skull was fractured, and she lived only two hours. Holland barely survived his serious injuries.
Looking forward to meeting his wife after her western tour, Booth-Tucker was told the terrible news by Colonel Charles Sowton and his aide, Brigadier Alexander Damon. Prostrated with grief, he left the funeral arrangements to others. The children, back in New York, were consoled by Major Hannah Carr as Brigadier Alice Johnson told them about their mother. The ages of the six ranged from 13-year-old Kris to baby Muriel, four months.
In London, General Booth heard the news from Bramwell and in turn had to comfort his son, distraught for days on the loss of his beloved sister.
Ballington Booth, in Philadelphia for a conference of the Volunteers of America, was devastated with grief, and he and his wife made plans to go to Chicago.
After a heartfelt service in Chicago there was another in New York. In this city, where the public often took little notice of funerals, there were “two miles of sorrowing sympathizing, and often weeping people.” Eva insisted on leaving her sick bed in Toronto to attend, against orders of her doctor. Emma was laid to rest in Woodlawn Cemetery, New York, beside two of her children, William and Evangeline, who had died in infancy.
Booth-Tucker tried to take up the work, but grief let him only go through the motions. The following year, he was transferred to International Headquarters. A new era in America began with the arrival of Eva Booth, who at that time changed her name to Evangeline.
Life goes on…
The War Cry for June 23, 1906, announced that the General had approved the engagement between his son-in-law, Commissioner Booth-Tucker, Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and Lieutenant-Colonel Mary Reid, of the Irish Province, daughter of the one-time acting governor of Bombay. In 1907, at his request, the couple went to command the work in India. They stayed in their beloved country until 1921, when ill health caused him to relinquish the post. Since Bramwell had become General, his brother-in-law gradually fell out of favor. He had a way of speaking very frankly to him, and the General did not like it. He was retired at age 73 in 1926, in accordance with new regulations concerning officer retirements. This left him feeling cast aside and useless, as he still had a warrior’s heart. He spent some time in America, taking part in projects that had interested him, such as prison work. Booth-Tucker was one of nine British Commissioners who signed a letter to the General urging that the Deed Poll not be altered to undercut the powers of the High Council. In 1929, shortly after Bramwell Booth was promoted to Glory, Booth-Tucker followed to his Heavenly Home.
As far as the family went, Emma seems to have been her brothers’ and sisters’ favorite, seeing the best in everyone. Who knows what would have happened between the Booth children had she and her husband remained in England to smooth over difficulties between them? What if they had remained in America, and Eva had not taken their place?
After her death, Booth wrote: “While the ‘Chief’ was my ‘right hand’ in this great enterprise, she was my ‘left,’ and I had fondly reckoned on her being his right hand when I had passed away. While all these years he has helped me so manfully and skillfully in brain, she has cheered and sustained me in heart; and yet both have excelled in the possession of each other’s qualities. For she has had the skill of the highest character, and he has had the tenderest quality of the soul.”
Sources: Notable Officers of The Salvation Army, by Mrs. Colonel George (Minnie) Carpenter; The Consul, by Frederick Booth-Tucker; History of The Salvation Army, Vol. 4, by Sandall; “The Clash of the Cymbals,” by F.A. McKenzie.