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Heroes: Sarah Beaty

by in Action, Features, Sliding Gallery

Heroes: Captain Sarah Beaty
Years Fighting: July 1865- 1889
Hero ID: Lady-Ranter
Mission: Share God’s word & love with the hardest on the street
Strength: Fearlessness, Compassion, Total Sacrifice

Sarah King grew up in London’s notorious East End, where alcoholism ravaged society. Few men worked and many bars had stairs up to their stools so children as young as 6 and 7 could get drunk. As you can imagine, families struggled in poverty and misery, with most of their meager funds spent on the next drinking binge or at the local brothel. Sarah had attended Sunday school growing up, and knew she wanted to be a part of God’s plan somehow.

One day, walking through Mile End waste- the most desperate part of town lined with bars and brothels- Sarah heard William Booth preaching on the streets. A man who had become a Christian days before shared Isaiah 55:7 “Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” Sarah accepted God’s pardon and became the first woman saved at an open air in Mile End Waste. Despite her parents’ opposition she became an “Evangelist” for William Booth and The Christian Mission (what would later be known as The Salvation Army).

Soon after, a bad-bones drunkard named Bill Beaty also joined The Salvation Army. However, despite initial success, he couldn’t kick his drinking habit. After hearing an impressive preach from the “Lady-Ranter” (none other than Sarah) he promised he would sober up if she would marry him. Sarah was foolish enough to believe the guy, becoming Sarah Beaty. Bill’s drinking continued to have a hold on him, even after their daughter Eliza was born, until Ballington Booth (one of Billy Booth’s sons) mentored him. Once he finally sobered up for good and cleaned up his act, they were both invited to become Salvation Army Officers and accepted.

If you think being an officer is hard now, it sure wasn’t an easy task in the early days. In fact, God worked through The Salvation Army to rescue so many men and women from alcoholism and prostitution, it began to really hurt local tavern and brothel business. Owners riled up customers to launch some counter-attacks against the Army- throwing all manner of objects (including dead cats and rats- ewwww) at Salvationists outdoors, causing riots, and vandalizing Army meeting places. The police often stood by and watched or, even worse, arrested the Officers, blaming them for starting all the commotion in the first place. This group of anti-Salvationist vandals became known as “The Skeleton Army” carrying flags with skulls and crossbones. This thug counter-movement spread rapidly across England and in 1882 669 Salvation Army soldiers were badly assaulted (many while they were inside preaching!) and sixty buildings had been torn apart.

Sarah wasn’t deterred by this threat and did not back down. She was known for fearlessly confronting the roughest and worst thugs on the street with love. While preaching outdoors the Skeleton Army started hurling rocks at her. One knocked Sarah off her feet and onto the ground where she was brutally kicked in the stomach. Immediately hospitalized, one of her eyes was removed and she soon succumbed to internal injuries, thus becoming the first Salvation Army person to die for the cause. She was a martyr.

Before Sarah died, the man who kicked the life out of her offered himself to be turned in to police. He felt remorse, guilt and admitted to being the worst of all sinners and deserving death. Amazingly, Sarah pleaded with her family to tell the man she forgave him for everything (sounds like a dude hanging on a cross I know) and not to turn himself in to the authorities which would mean certain death. The man became a dedicated Salvation Army soldier (member) for the rest of his life.

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.

  • Have you accepted God’s pardon and decided to live for Him? If not, what’s stopping you? If it’s worth dying for it’s probably worth living for too.
  • Like Bill Beaty, is there something in your life that keeps dragging you down, a habit you just can’t kick? If so, what is it?
  • Do you have the courage to stand up and tell about God’s love to those who need to hear it? What kind of resistance (projectile rats?) have you met with, if any?
  • Sarah had the courage to keep loving the unlovable, even when it was dangerous, but sometimes we let something as small as embarrassment hold us back. Ask God to remove the barriers that keep you from serving Him fully.
  • Would you be willing to lay it all on the line for Jesus, as he did for you? Sarah was just the first in a line of Salvation Army martyrs. To read more of their stories and remember their courage check out the book “They Gave Their Lives” by Alan Bateman
  • What heroic things are you currently a part of? If you’re not, why not (lazy, $, time…)?
  • What kind of hero will you be?
  • What heroic things/social injustices will you BECOME a part of fighting?
  • How can you start taking action on that RIGHT NOW (this week)?
  • What will you be remembered for when you’re dead and gone?

See previous Heroes Episodes:
Frederick | Joe | Donut Girls | Eliza Shirley

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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  • Mike Anderson

    You say Captain Beaty was the first, what about
    In 1884 while serving in Worthing, Broadbent
    decided to hold a prayer meeting instead of an open
    air meeting since the open airs had caused
    pandemonium in her town. That evening the mobs were surprised not to find the local corps in
    the streets. Sandall described tragic events that followed: “[The opposition group] marched to
    Showham [the location of the corps in the town], smashed all the windows of the corps hall
    there, and in the course of the rioting the officer
    in charge (Captain Sarah J. Broadbent) received
    her death-blow from a flying stone.”
    page 12

  • heidster

    Thanks for that reference Mike! Yes, depending on your sources it can be difficult to tell who exactly was the first. Thank God for all of those who gave their lives in that period of our movements birth.

  • Heather Goodier

    Her name was actually Susannah Beaty, not Sarah. I think you may be confusing her with Sarah Broadbent, whom Mike was referring to.