Monday, 19 September 2011
The Girl Who Invaded America. The Odyssey of Eliza Shirley by Ken Elliot
Your Editor has had the pleasure of knowing Ken for many years and he has already established himself as a tenacious historian of the Salvation Army, with a keen eye for detail and a determination to follow a story wherever it may lead. When Ken asked me to read and edit the manuscript for this book, I was astonished by the story and realised that it needed to be brought to as wide an audience as possible.
Ken was born in Coventry and is a fourth-generation Salvationist. Eliza Shirley also hailed from Coventry. She left England in 1879 with her mother Annie and travelled to America, settling in the then rather rough Philadelphia.
Although without the official sanction of Headquarters, the family began to prepare an abandoned factory for meetings. Few people attended at first and the civic authorities were certainly opposed to their efforts. However, the family's integrity and hardwork won through and Ken's book follows Eliza through her many triumphs and tribulations. Indeed, this book is illuminating in so many ways. It certainly shows the intensity of the family, their belief in William Booth and the Salvation Army, the way in which the Army used their services and the cost to those early day saints.
Seven months after Eliza landed, George Scott Railton and the 'Hallelujah Lassies' arrived in New York. As they came with the authority of William Booth, they are officially credited with starting the Army in the USA. However, it was clearly the Shirleys who brought the work to America and this book makes that clear.
Ken writes in the increasingly popular 'factional' genre — a mixture of the facts and fictional narrative between the characters. This style makes the book incredibly readable and I wholeheartedly recommend it to all our readers. It is a great success for Ken and indirectly, the SAHPA.
One of the reasons for the existence of the SAHPA is to promote historical work and we have in past years reprinted sometimes substantial booklets. This book was to be the SAHPA's first major publishing venture. Shortly before going to press, we were asked by the Salvation Army in America to allow them to publish the work. This we were glad to do, especially as the Army has significantly more outlets than we were able to reach. We have thus allowed them the copyright to the book.
Various of our members have written pieces or books and we are currently looking at an excellent family history going back to the earliest days of the Army. If you have anything to write, short or long, please do get in touch.
Posted by David Miller at Monday, September 19, 2011