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Remembering Three Extraordinary Women

Threewomen_2When Broadway actress Carol Jaudes came to The Salvation Army in 1999, many people had great hopes of how she could reach people through the gospel arts.

One of those people was the man who had hired her, Lt. Colonel R. William Hunter.

Jaudes recalls, “Lt. Colonel Hunter had great vision and repeatedly told me I should perform a one–woman show titled ‘The Three Bonnets.’ ”

Hunter’s idea was that each “bonnet” would represent the ministry of one of the three most important women in Salvation Army history—Catherine Booth, the wife of co–Founder William Booth; Evangeline Booth, the daughter of the Booths and General of The Salvation Army from 1934–39: and the recently deceased Eva Burrows, who was General from 1986–93.

“It wasn’t until 2009, on the occasion of General Eva Burrows’ 80th birthday, that Hunter’s vision became a reality,” says Jaudes, director of the USA Eastern Territory’s Special Events & Arts Ministries Bureau.

The 50–minute show, which features Jaudes wearing three different Salvation Army bonnets and then dramatically portraying highlights of each woman’s life, was first performed in Melbourne, Australia, with General Burrows in the front row.

Yielding to God

Since 2009, Jaudes has performed “The Three Bonnets” about 36 times at various Salvation Army locations, “from the Williamsport, Pa., Corps to the Candidates Seminar,” she says.

“I was greatly impacted that all of these women simply opened themselves to what God had designed for their lives. This is my desire and prayer for my own life as well.” — Carol Jaudes

Karen Krinjak, a retired public school music teacher and a Salvationist music leader from Connecticut, has been at each performance, providing her exceptional support on the piano.

Although Jaudes is currently performing other shows, she may return to “The Three Bonnets” in the future and said she learned much from portraying the Salvationist icons.

“I was greatly impacted that all of these women simply opened themselves to what God had designed for their lives,” she says. “This is my desire and prayer for my own life as well.”

Jaudes said the dialogue for the show was written by Dr. Gillette Elvgren, whom she described as “one of the best writers of faith–based material in the country.” Jaudes had already worked with the Regent University professor on “The World’s Greatest Romance” and “And Sarah Laughed,” one–woman shows performed by Jaudes.

Three different lives

Threewomen_main“Dr. Elvgren asked me to send him as many books as possible from the writings of these three women,” Jaudes says. “I believe that, especially as a non–Salvationist, he captured the unique spirit of each woman.”

Jaudes said picking a favorite among the three women would be “difficult to say.” She found something to admire about them all.

“I love Catherine’s segment because we see her quiet strength, her influence on her family, and the moment when she gained the courage to step up and say ‘I want to say a word,’ ” Jaudes says.

Jaudes, who has spent a large part of her own life on stage, said she enjoyed Evangeline’s “theatricality.”

“She was a huge personality, enjoyed her position, and was never afraid of taking risks for the Lord,” Jaudes says. “She was famous for her sermons, in which she would dress in costume.

“[Evangeline] was the force behind the beginnings of the Slum Sisters, Bicycle Brigades, and the Donut Girls of World War I. Perhaps I enjoy portraying her because I am unlike her in many ways! For those 15 minutes, dressed in Evangeline’s bonnet, I get to boldly and courageously change history—for Christ’s sake.”

Jaudes said playing the character of Eva Burrows was simply “fun.”

“She has spunk and lights up the stage like a firecracker!” Jaudes says. “We become aware of her global influence for the Army through stories of her meetings with Mother Teresa and with Fidel Castro.”

Coming to Christ 

Jaudes said, as she prepared for the three roles, she “especially loved the moment in each woman’s life when she gave her heart fully to the Lord.”

One of Jaudes’ favorite scenes portrayed a young Catherine Booth, who said:

“When I was 15, I desired to know if I was truly saved. ‘Don‘t be silly,’ said the Devil in my heart, ‘you have been as good as saved all your life. How can you expect such a sudden change as if you were a great big drunkard? Don‘t be silly.’

“ ‘But my heart is as bad as the heart of a big sinner,’ I cried. ‘Lord, I cannot rest until Thou has changed my whole nature.’ I would pace up and down my room until two o‘clock in the morning, and then lie down again, with my hymn book and Bible under my pillow, in hopes that God himself would tell me that my sins are forgiven.”

Then music begins and she sings:

My God, I am Thine, what a comfort divine
What a blessing to know that my Jesus is mine.
Hallelujah, send the glory. Hallelujah, amen!
Hallelujah, send the glory, revive us again.

Jaudes said she also was impressed by the spiritual life of the young Eva Burrows, who said, “I began to realize that I was falling far short of the wonder and beauty of Christ and was heading in the wrong direction. At a youth councils in Brisbane, I broke down, and gave my life, my future, everything, to Christ‘s call.”

Jaudes said Evangeline Booth’s description of her conversion “touches my heart each time I say the lines.” She can even imagine the scene:

“It was evening, Christmas, 1872. I had just turned 7 and once more my birthday had been lost in the shuffle. That week, I had watched my brothers and sisters participating in the meetings, and I couldn‘t wait to get started myself. But I couldn‘t sleep because I knew I wasn‘t as good as my mother and father wanted me to be.

“I slipped out of bed, and, in my bare feet, ran into their room. Kneeling by the bed, I cried, ‘Mama, I want to be converted like you and Papa and Katie and Emma and …’ I can still feel the warmth of her arms as I knelt by her side and felt my father‘s hand upon my head. Kneeling there with the simple trust of a little girl, I gave my heart to the children‘s Savior.”

The most common reaction Jaudes said she would get after a performance of “The Three Bonnets” was, “I didn’t know that about…!”

“I believe the play allows the audience to see these historical women of faith as real people with real problems and with  real down–to–earth faith,” Jaudes says.

“The play seems to challenge men and women alike in that God can use the ordinary people like you and me to do extraordinary things for His Kingdom.”

Jaudes, who portrayed Jennyanydots in the Broadway musical “CATS” for five years, has performed all over the United States, Canada, and Europe. She is also an accomplished vocalist and has recorded a CD entitled “This Day.”

She is a soldier at the Montclair, N.J., Citadel Corps and for the last 16 years has led the USA Eastern Territory’s Arts Ministries Bureau, which spreads the Gospel through drama and the arts.

Looking back at “The Three Bonnets,” Jaudes said each of the women represented much more than she could cover in a short play.

“It has been a privilege to portray just a small part of who these women were,” Jaudes says. “Their lives were so rich that a full–length play could be written and performed about each one of them. But that is for another day!”

by Robert Mitchell