Celebrating Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month.

Honoring Volunteers of America co-founder, Maud Booth.

March is Women’s History Month – a time to commemorate and honor the vital role of women in American History. At Volunteers of America, (VOA) we are proud to celebrate Maud Booth, co-founder of VOA and essential social reformer. Maud and her husband, Ballington, vowed to “go wherever we are needed, and do whatever comes to hand.” They took their own words to heart, and they’ve guided the mission of Volunteers of America’s ever since. 

Prior to Volunteers of America, Maud and Ballington were part of the Salvation Army in England, an organization founded by Ballington’s parents, William and Catherine. 

During her time with Salvation Army, Maud: 

  • Organized a group of women known as the “slum sisters” to care for the elderly, sick, and the poorest in London, eventually bringing a version of it to America in 1894.  
  • Founded the National Florence Crittenton Mission in 1895, providing support and education to young and unmarried mothers.  

Then, Maud and Ballington were sent to the United States to build the first U.S. Salvation Army National Headquarters as a memorial to his mother, Catherine Booth. It was dedicated on June 3, 1895 in New York City. But after Ballington’s father, General William Booth, believed that Maud and Ballington made the Salvation Army too American, he recalled them to England. However, there were many public protests and a rally held at Carnegie Hall to stop the recall because the American people knew how important their work was. 

On Sunday, March 8, 1896, Maud and Ballington moved on from Salvation Amry and celebrated the birth of the Volunteers of America. This is truly when Maud expanded her reach and impact within the community. The work Maud and Ballington did alongside each other allowed them to explore their own interests when it came to helping others.  

During WWI, Maud was appointed as the first woman special agent in the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate violations of the Mann Act, a law passed to prohibit the transportation of women across state lines for “immoral purposes.” 

However, it would seem Maud Booth was most passionate about prison reform. On Sunday, May 24, 1896, she was invited to Sing Sing prison by the warden to conduct a chapel service.  It was then that she promised to help inmates rebuild their lives after incarceration.  

Maud opened what is believed to be the first halfway house in the United States for released inmates, called Hope Hall No 1, located in the Bronx. Soon after, Hope Halls were established all across the country, open to any ex-convict regardless of race, creed, or past crimes. 

And not only did she promise to help inmates after prison, Maud also fought for better conditions for inmates. As part of this, she founded the Volunteer Prison League, a membership organization of inmates determined to make good. It was incredibly popular! By 1897, there were more than 2,000 members across eight State prisons, which grew to 60,000 members in 15 years. 

Maud lived a fascinating life, dedicated to helping others. She continued to be actively involved in social and prison reform until her death in 1948. Maud was a devoted Christian who authored several books, became an accomplished social reformer and created a legacy that lives on today. 







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