Woman Burrows, Eva Evelyn

General, AC

Headmistress, Missionary, Preacher and Religious Leader

Written by Ruth Lee, Australian Catholic University

Eva Evelyn Burrows was born in 1929 in Tighes Hill, Newcastle, New South Wales, the eighth of nine children. Her parents were Salvation Army officers, so the family moved location almost every two years. It was a happy family despite sharing the widespread poverty of the Depression years; her mother had a way of making everyone feel special. Their life was filled with Salvation Army activities - performing music in the street, singing hymns, attending services. She attended Brisbane High School and won a scholarship to the University of Queensland where she graduated with an Arts degree in 1949.

Eva Burrows said: 'My mother was my great supporter...She always had felt that I had gifts of leadership and she wanted me to become what she thought I could be.' Deciding she wanted to be a teacher and missionary in Africa, she committed her life to the service of God; a relationship. 'In my life when I've had to make big decisions', she explained, 'I almost have kind of a feeling as if God is pushing me in the back' (Hughes, 1996).

The Salvation Army offered possibilities for Burrows. 'I had seen many single women in the Salvation Army with high ranks and doing responsible jobs. So I was aware that that could happen to me. But that never deflected me from the decision that I'd made to serve God. And I also think in that age... To be a single lady and to have a profession was something that you admired' (Hughes, 1996). She was determined to become an commissioned officer of the Salvation Army. In 1951-1952 she attended a Salvation Army Youth Conference in London, where she was invited to do the Army training in London while at university completing her teacher training.

Burrows was then posted, as a teacher, to the Howard Institute in Zimbabwe from 1952 to 1967, and became Principal of the Usher Institute, training teachers in Zimbabwe from 1967 to 1970. Here she helped establish the secondary school system. She taught at the International College for Officers, London, from 1970 to 1975, as Assistant Principal and Principal. With this experience her career accelerated.

In 1975 Burrows became the leader of the Salvation Army's Social Services for Women in Great Britain and in 1977 leader of the Salvation Army in Sri Lanka, followed by Scotland in 1980. Two years later, she was appointed leader of the Salvation Army in Australia. In 1986 she was elected General of the Salvation Army and was the second woman ever elected to this world-wide position. During her seven-year term she re-established the Salvation Army in Eastern Europe: the former East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Russia (Women's International Index).

Burrows has had many honours bestowed upon her, including the Order of Australia (AO), 1986 and upgraded to Companion (AC) in 1994. In 1988 she became an Honorary Doctor of Liberal Arts at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, and was awarded an Honorary LLD from Asbury University in the USA in 1988. In December 1993 she received an honorary Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Queensland.

Reflecting on her career, she articulated her most important attributes of leadership as being able to: inspire others with the importance of their work; speak out confidently in committees and conferences; advocate for the 'common people'; spot other potential leaders and develop their abilities. Her style was consultative and persuasive rather than confrontational and authoritarian: 'I think I encouraged everyone to take their own responsibility' (Hughes, 1996).

Burrows retired from her position as General of the Salvation Army in 1993 but has continued to serve her community in a large variety of roles. Known as 'the people's general', she is confident and decisive with a very positive attitude to life: 'I live in the now. I believe that what you do now is significant for the past and for the future.' All of these talents flowed from her Christian faith, which she described as: 'an awareness that those gifts have come to me from my parents, from God and from my own hard work efforts.(sic) And therefore I shouldn't be ashamed of them...And it's in order to thank God by using them that I can be confident...I'm therefore uncompromising about the fact that I have been given this ability to lead (Hughes, 1996).

Published Resources


  • Gariepy, Henry, General of God's Army: The Authorized Biography of General Eva Burrows, Victor Books, Illinois, United States of America, 1993. Details

Online Resources

See also