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Heroes: 1800’s Abolitionist Trio

by in Action, Features, Sliding Gallery

HERO: Bramwell Booth, W.T. Stead, & Rebecca Jarrett
Years Fighting: Varies
Hero ID: The Maiden Tribute Squad
Mission: Expose Injustice, Raise Awareness, Change Laws
Strength: Courageous, Self-Sacrificing, Champions

19th century London, England was no place for a picnic. Sure some people had picnics, but the reason The Salvation Army grew so rapidly in its inception was its ability to face harsh realities like wide-spread poverty, alcoholism, and injustice head-on and TAKE ACTION to improve the lives of thousands…but you can’t solve a problem until you admit it exists…

Florence Booth was the wife of Bramwell Booth (Billy Booth’s son who quickly became his father’s right hand man and eventually, when William Booth died, was a shoe-in as the second general of The Salvation Army). Florence was an extremely empathetic and tender-hearted lady. While working at a downtown London Salvation Army shelter for women, she was shocked and disturbed by the life experiences the women opened up about. As night after night she lay tearfully awake for the hurting women she had encountered, Bramwell kindly suggested she might be better suited to work elsewhere and that the ladies at the shelter were probably just being over-dramatic about their plights.

Content to make excuses and dismiss the issues, Bramwell would have continued on in ignorance…except that the issue came knocking on his door. Clothed in a shockingly revealing red dress, a young girl who had just managed to escape from a brothel had just showed up on his doorstep.
That day Bramwell Booth learned that the stories his wife had been telling him were, unfortunately, true.

Bramwell immediately contacted a friend of his – a respected newspaper publisher who had a flair for the dramatic. W.T. Stead, when first approached, was as dubious and skeptical as Bramwell had been with his wife. However, Bram took no chances. He bombarded Stead with personal stories, having brought in many of the shelter women to speak with him.

Being faced with what seemed too terrible to be true, Stead and Booth hatched a plan…a plan crazy enough that might actually work. For months, they became their own undercover detectives and research agents and infiltrated the London prostitution scene. That’s right, you heard me… they went undercover into brothels!!!

When all the facts were carefully collected (involving much personal danger), Stead used his newspaper to shock the public into awareness. In a four part series called THE MAIDEN TRIBUTE IN MODERN BABYLON (Read it for yourself HERE) Stead revealed the pervasiveness and all-too-common instance of human trafficking and sexual slavery happening in ‘civilized’ London.

Have you seen The Hunger Games? Where tributes are chosen to represent each district of the country Panem, and forced to enter an arena where they must kill each other for the Capital’s entertainment? Stead used a very similar Greek mythology story to compare young women to tributes being recruited and sent into a death-trap(the death-trap being London) which, while thinking itself the most highly civilized society on earth, he dared to re-name modern Babylon (Babylon being one of the most sinful and wicked cities in the Bible). Oh, the scandal!!!!

The paper recounted in detail the situation of hundreds of women who were tricked into sexual slavery, who weren’t even being paid as prostitutes, who most often didn’t even know what sex was when they were recruited! It revealed the corruption of the police force, the many highly respected government officials and wealthy men who supported and supplied the demand that kept the whole system running and intact. It spoke of the high bounty for young virgin girls and the ridiculousness of the laws that outlined the age of consensual sex to be 13, meaning if a girl was raped at that age, she had little or no legal rights to prosecute, since she was assumed to have given consent.

As if that wasn’t enough to wake up a nation, Stead and Booth didn’t stop there. The paper even recounted how easily a young girl- aged 13- was sold by her parents as a sexual slave and shipped out of the country to France. How did they get these details? Because Stead and Booth, with the help of a former prostitute and brothel-owner Salvationist named Rebecca Jarrett, themselves made the transaction!

The paper had to be re-printed more than once. London was in shock and
outrage. Some places banned the selling of The Maiden Tribute, while it sold out from every store that would. The public became so enthralled in the issue that an enormous amount of pressure was put on government, at just the time that the law regarding the age of sexual consent was being examined in parliament. A petition was sent to every Salvation Army Church (Corps), where every member was encouraged to sign. Once completed, a horde of Salvationists, brass band and Bramwell Booth marched to parliament to hand-deliver it. With so much media attention, the age of sexual consent for young girls was raised to 16 years old – a huge victory for women everywhere in London that were vulnerable and being exploited!

It didn’t take long, however, before investigators found out that Bramwell and Stead had themselves purchased and exported a young girl to prove beyond a doubt its possibility. They, along with Rebecca Jarret, were charged in court by the mother and father (later proven to be a fake) of the young girl they had purchased- who was never harmed. The parents argued they were tricked into selling their daughter. After a high-profile trial with all of London watching, Bramwell was acquitted, while Rebecca and Stead were sentenced to 6 months in prison. Stead was so proud of earning jail time that every year on the anniversary of his imprisonment he wore his jail uniform. Stead later died aboard the Titanic.

R-U a part of The Salvation Army? If so, this stuff is in your D.N.A- it’s part of your spiritual tree! Tap into it. Let it speak and breathe life into you. Wake up from your trance. Dust yourself off.

Do yourself a favour. Sit down for a minute. Turn off your cell phone and ipod and reflect for a couple minutes of ‘you’ time to do some soul searching. Answering these questions below will help give you a sense of purpose in your life.

  • Sexual trafficking is just as shocking and close to home today as it was in the 19th century. Plan to TAKE ACTION THIS MONTH and join thousands worldwide to STOP TRAFFICKING. See I Am Traffic Jam
  • Would you be willing to get arrested/charged for standing up against an injustice? Why or why not? If so, what injustice?
  • Some countries, like Canada, are leaning towards legalizing prostitution. Do you know what our current laws are? Are you aware that there’s a case being appealed with the Supreme Court in Canada and depending on that appeal may mean that prostitution is no-longer illegal in Canada? Given God’s perspective on how we should function as a society, what would you suggest our prostitution laws say? See MP Joy Smith’s site HERE
  • Many of us are inadvertent supporters of the sex trade. Women as sex objects is at the root of the issue and drives sex trafficking. This theme is apparent and significant in much of the advertising of clothes we buy and wear, music lyrics and videos we listen to as well as the movies we watch. Sex sells and most of us are ‘buying’ it to one degree or another. Let’s not forget porn which many people (young, old, girl, guy, Christian, Non-Christian) view and are addicted to. Porn’s a drug that alters your brain and drives an industry that destroys (mainly) women & children’s lives. Stand up and speak out against the pornification of our culture. Seek help if you’re addicted. See Fight The New Drug and XXX Church
  • Many cases of human trafficking are uncovered through the awareness of normal people like me and you. Take time to learn the signs so that you can be somebody’s advocate and rescuer.
  • Check out,, and DO SOMETHING!

See previous Heroes Episodes:
Frederick | Joe | Donut Girls | Eliza Shirley | Sarah Beaty | James Barker

Fight against injustice // Fight hard // Fight with love

:: by Heidi Adams of Triton, NL
I’m a Salvation Army youth pastor and enjoy unicycling, playing the ukulele and singing off-key, loving Jesus, making the world a better place, and refusing to grow up. Check out Just Youth.

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