Meet Mabel Vivian Broome
In the early 1900s, Mabel Vivian Broome was ahead of her time.
Drawn to the Army by the fervor of its preachers and its relentless social outreach, Mabel became a soldier (member) of a Salvation Army church called the Chicago #3 Corps (church). She then answered the call to become an officer (pastor) and after an intense six months of training, Mabel became the first African-American officer in the Army’s Central Territory on July 20, 1915, just as World War 1 was heating up.
Perhaps the most challenging of Mabel’s assignments was to the “Chicago #2 Slums”. The Army set up “slum corps” in the poorest section of the city. This work included house-to-house visitation, with young women officers scrubbing people’s floors, caring for new mothers and their babies, ministering to the sick and shut-ins, mending clothes and seeking donations of food and clothing. These officers also had the full responsibility of church programs – nightly services, frequent open-air evangelistic meetings, visits to brothels and saloons to share the Gospel and to sell The War Cry, the Army’s national magazine.
The officers could frequently count on unresponsive crowds, and often, open hostility so such a life at the “slum corps” required perseverance, faith, and a tremendous amount of energy. For Mabel Broome, an African-American in a United States that was highly segregated, the duty must have been extremely hard.
In 1918, Mabel resigned as an officer, probably because of delicate health. After a time, however, she returned to the work and accepted a reassignment to the Army’s USA Eastern Territory, where she served at the Boston Rescue Home until her early death in 1930.
Like many young women who toiled in obscurity, Mabel Broome paved the way for for many who would follow her in The Salvation Army to serve the poor, at any cost, in the name of Jesus.