Cover image for Red-hot and righteous : the urban religion of the Salvation Army
Red-hot and righteous : the urban religion of the Salvation Army
Winston, Diane H., 1951-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
290 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


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BX9718.N7 W56 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In this study of religion, urban life, and commercial culture, Diane Winston shows how a militant Protestant mission established a beachead in the modern city. When The Salvation Army, a British evangelical movement, landed in New York in 1880, local citizens called its eye-catching advertisements vulgar and dubbed its brass bands, female preachers, and overheated services sensationalist. Yet a little more than a century later, this missionary movement had evolved into the nation's largest charitable fund-raiser - the very exemplar of America's most cherished values of social service and religious committment.

Author Notes

Diane Winston is a Program Officer at the Pew Charitable Trust, Philadelphia

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Winston, a Research Fellow at the Center for Media, Culture and History at New York University, has written an engaging and insightful history of how the Salvation Army hitched its "red-hot" Protestant mission to the rising star of a modern American city (New York) and became the nation's largest charitable fund-raiser. The first Salvationists arrived from England in 1880 and took to the streets, seeking the "unchurched" on their own ground with a gaudy blend of parades and pageants that drew criticism from more conventional religionists. The Army's action-oriented religion was among the first to welcome women and blacks as preachers, and they set up soup kitchens and homeless shelters and baked donuts for doughboys in World War I. Winston's energetic prose skillfully interweaves the clamor of fin de siecle New York City with a close scrutiny of an organization most Americans consider themselves familiar with, at least with the uniformed bell-ringers who first manned Christmas donation kettles on street corners in 1891. --Dale Edwyna Smith

Publisher's Weekly Review

At Christmas, the red kettles and the clanging bells of the Salvation Army are ubiquitous. On urban street corners and in suburban strip malls, the Armys missions and thrift stores operate when the bells have stopped ringing. How did the Salvation Army weave its way into the cultural fabric of America? In her first-rate social and religious history, Winstona research fellow at the Center for Media, Culture and History at New York Universitytraces the development of the Army from 1880, when it first arrived in New York, to 1950. Through a close examination of primary sources, the author contends that the Army used the forces of urbanization and commercialization, including dramatic performances and street parades, to its advantage, shaping urban religion along the way. She demonstrates that the Salvation Army saw all space as sacred and attempted to religionize secular things through its many activities. Many of the Armys marches, for example, carried them through commercial and residential districts, rich and poor neighborhoods, thus emphasizing the Armys contention that every place belongs to God. The social vision of the Army expressed itself not only in its urban missions but also in the Sallies, an organization of Salvationist women who served American troops in France in World War I. Far from being street preachers of hellfire and damnation, the members of the Salvation Army sought to redeem the world by meeting its physical needs and thereby implicitly meeting its spiritual needs. Writes Winston: Redeeming the world, according to the Armys founder, William Booth, meant facing its challenges (poverty, unemployment, alcoholism, and prostitution) and turning its secular idioms (advertisements, music, theater) into spiritual texts. Marked by lively writing, sure-handed and balanced scholarship and incisive wit, Winstons study is a must-read for readers interested in the Salvation Army and in the interrelationship of religion and culture. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

In the 1990s, the Salvation Army was the leading fund-raiser among American charities. Winston, Research Fellow at New York University's Center for Media, Culture and History, traces the Army's development in New York City from 1880 to 1950. The original Army vision was "to saturate the secular with the sacred." What began, however, as a Holiness sect with a mission to convert the unchurched urban masses became a pragmatic, nonsectarian charity for social welfare, with support far beyond its actual membership. The Army's English founder, William Booth, and American commanding officers from the remarkable Booth family were adept at attracting publicity and adapting business methods and popular entertainment for religious purposes. The Christmas kettle and doughnut-dispensing Salvation Army lassies, the "Sallies" of World War I, became cultural icons of social service, as reflected in the popular press, theater, and Hollywood films. The transformed public perception of the Army from an agency for saving souls to one of social service "enabled a sectarian, evangelical movement to thrive in a diverse and modern city." The Army became culturally respectable, reflecting more than transforming its urban culture. Highly recommended for all academic levels. W. B. Bedford; Crown College

Table of Contents

Abbreviationsp. viii
Introductionp. 1
1 The Cathedral of the Open Air, 1880-1886p. 10
2 The New Woman, 1886-1896p. 44
3 The Red Crusade, 1896-1904p. 96
4 The Commander in Rags, 1904-1918p. 143
5 Fires of Faith, 1919-1950p. 191
Epiloguep. 250
Notesp. 255
Acknowledgmentsp. 279
Indexp. 283