Women of Impact - Salvation Army Canada
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    Women of Impact

    Three #WomenOfImpact who pioneered The Salvation Army in the Canada and Bermuda Territory October 2, 2019 Captain Laura Van Schaick
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    Women's Ministries
    Women Of Impact
    Women Of Impact

    Before women had the right to vote in Canada, Salvationist women were publicly sharing the gospel and advancing the work of The Salvation Army in Canada and around the world.

    As we celebrate Women's History Month in Canada (October), we're sharing the stories of three #WomenOfImpact who pioneered The Salvation Army in The Canada and Bermuda Territory.

    Captain Emma Dawson

    What did you do on your honeymoon? Emma Dawson organized meetings, rallied troops, preached the gospel of Jesus Christ, and founded The Salvation Army in Newfoundland.

    Emma Dawson (nee Churchill) grew up in Portugal Cove, NL.  In 1883, a year after migrating with her parents to Toronto, Emma became the 11th officer to be commissioned in the new Canadian Territory. She ‘opened fire’ in Guelph, ON in 1884.

    On August 5, 1885, Captain Emma Churchill married Charles Dawson.  Salvation Army regulations at the time outlined that, in instances where an already-commissioned officer married out of the ranks, the officer must resign for a period of at least six months until the partner was deemed ready for full-time service. Intending to return to Officership, Emma and Charles Dawson spent their honeymoon in Newfoundland, with Emma's family in Portugal Cove.

    It was during this time that Emma Dawson introduced Newfoundland to The Salvation Army.

    On September 6, 1985, the St. John’s Evening Mercury reported:

    “On Thursday evening quite a number of young men left town for Portugal Cove, at which place a very successful meeting in connection with The Salvation Army was held. . .  which was characterized by universally good singing, hearty prayers and soul-stirring addresses. Several of the friends gave religious experiences, and all present testified to their entire sympathy for the movement for the salvation of souls.”

    The Dawsons contacted Canadian Headquarters in January 1886 requesting that officers be assigned to continue the work. That same month, four female officers arrived in St. John's.

    For more information, we suggest “The Salvation Army in Newfoundland – Its History and Essence” by R.G. Moyles (1997)

    Adjutant Lutie DesBrisay

    Lucretia “Lutie” DesBrisay was captivated by the message and work of The Salvation Army when it arrived in Prince Edward Island.  Born into a wealthy family, Lutie DesBrisay set aside her claim to riches to become a Salvation Army Officer and proved early on in her ministry to be a force to be reckoned with.

    As a Captain, she boldly ignored a law which prevented Salvation Army street meetings in Amherst, NS, succeeding in winning enough popular support to have the law repealed.

    As a District Officer, she ordered meetings be held in saloons.  As a result, at least one hotelkeeper closed his saloon to become an Army supporter.

    As an Adjutant, she made her way across the Atlantic to bring The Salvation Army to the island of Bermuda.  She arrived into Hamilton, Bermuda, accompanied by two other Salvation Army “lassies” on January 7, 1896. At only 24 years of age, Adjutant Lutie registered 500 converts and 150 soldiers enrolled in the first 12 months of ministry. With the population of Bermuda being only 17,000 at the time, Adjutant Lutie DesBrisay became a household name.

    Later in her career, Lutie DesBrisay organized and modernized the Grace Hospitals in St. John's, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, London, and Windsor. She also oversaw the Salvation Army's social work programme for the whole of Canada, becoming the Salvation Army's first woman colonel.

    Captain Abigail Thompson

    Captain Abigail Thompson arrived in Kingston, Ontario from the USA on January 29, 1883 to “open fire” in the community. The Kingston Whig reported that the early days of ministry for Captain Abby, as she came to be called, were hugely successful. Crowds at her early open air meetings in Kingston Market Square drew crowds of several hundred persons, and she was soon filling the Victoria Music Hall to bursting at evening meetings.

    It didn’t take long for Captain Abby to become quite the local celebrity.  A local soap manufacturer named his brand after her, calling it “Abby Soap.”  A prominent citizen named his yacht the “Captain Abby.”  Even the Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald, took a keen interest in the ministry of Abigail Thompson.

    At one point, Sir John A. Macdonald attended Captain Abby’s meetings three evenings in a row. Upon arriving to the hall late one night, he caused quite a stir, with those in attendance craning their necks to see him. As the Whig reported, Captain Abby stopped reading and remarked, “Now, don’t make a fuss. He’s only a gentleman and you all know him. If I dared I’d ask him on the platform and then your faces would be turned this way. Just give me your attention!” She then went on to exhort people to be glad instead of afraid of the second coming of Jesus.

    Richard J. Gwyn, writing for Canada’s History Magazine in 2012, suggested that “by attending meetings at which Thompson presided, [Macdonald] was doing something astonishing – he was showing his approval of women giving orders to men in public, an act that scandalized public opinion of the day.”

    For more information, we suggest “Glory! Hallelujah!” by R.G. Moyles (2013)



    On Tuesday, October 29, 2019, Women's Ministries - Canada and Bermuda Territory said:

    Catherine - we would love to receive your phot of your grandmother! You can send it to CAN-Women@can.salvationarmy.org. Thanks!


    On Thursday, October 24, 2019, Catherine said:

    Can I post or send a photo of my grandmother - an officer in Bermuda in 1918?


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