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Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army

by Diane H. Winston

Buy the book: Diane H. Winston. Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army

Release Date: May, 1999

Edition: Hardcover


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Buy the book: Diane H. Winston. Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army

Gracefully written, but lacking in focus.

Is this book an organizational history of the Salvation Army? Is it about the Army as an urban religious phenomenon? Is it about the Army's use of the methods of popular entertainment in order to draw attention, converts, and public support? Is it about the power of women within the Salvation Army? Is it a discussion of how the public perception of the Army (and the women in it)changed between 1880 and 1940?

"Red Hot and Righteous" tries to be all of these and more, but unfortunately it doesn't work. As a popular history, this is pleasant enough reading, but as a scholarly work it is maddeningly diffuse. Winston's thesis is ill-defined, she fails to address the existing literature on the Salvation Army, and she has no evident theoretical approach. While she addresses the power women had within the Salvation Army, as a feminist history "Red Hot and Righteous" lacks teeth because Winston turns her focus elsewhere rather than fully developing her discussion of women's roles.

Winston also uses a very limited range of sources. When presenting the Army's side of the story she leans very heavily on the 'American War Cry'--the Army's own paper. The 'AWC' was sold to the general public to raise funds, and it was thus intended to present the Army and its activities in the best possible light. For an outsider's view of the Salvation Army she relies overwhelmingly on one newspaper--the 'New York Times.' What about ethnic newspapers? What about papers that found their audience primarily among the poor and working class? What did the people the Army aimed its evangelical and charitable activities at think of these predominantly middle-class do-gooders?

Winston writes very well, and she gives the Salvation Army the respectful treatment it deserves. But as an academic work, "Red Hot and Righteous" fails to gel. By narrowing her argument and focusing on a specific issue--women's roles and leadership within the Army, the use of popular culture as an evangelical tool, changing depictions of Salvation Army women in books and popular entertainment--and expanding the types of sources used, Winston could have broken new ground. Unfortunately, she keeps stabbing her spade with too little force in too many different places, and as a result she only raises a bit of dust. While I would still recommend this book for a general readership, as a scholar I found it unfocused and ultimately unsatisfying.

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I thought this back was very interesting. It presents the history of the Salvation Army from its inception in England in the nineteenth century through a good part of the twentieth century. Its focus is on the female leadership. It is interesting to note that though men are mentioned in the text, they are only briefly so. You learn a lot about the Booth women and their role in the Army but little about what their husbands where doing. It is a positive perspective of the movement and the ways in which it has helped Americans both here and abroad during the World Wars.

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