NATIONAL WOMEN’S MONTH
CLARA BARTON AND THE AMERICAN RED CROSS
What do you think of when someone mentions the month of March? Saint Patrick’s Day perhaps? Well, you may not know, but March is actually both Red Cross Month and National Women’s History Month! Indian River Select Brand wants to honor both at once and delve into the extraordinary story of a wonderful woman called Clarissa Harlowe Barton, known as Clara. Clara was born on December 25, 1821, in North Oxford, Massachusetts. She went on to be the founder the American Red Cross in 1881 after risking her life in order to bring supplies and support to soldiers in the field during the Civil War. If you were looking for a new role model, then we’ve got you covered. Just take a look at this list Clara’s achievements, you’ll see there are enough to fill several lifetimes.
- In 1831, when she was just ten years old Clara successfully nursed her brother David back to health after he sustained a brain injury and doctors had given up on him.
- In 1839 at the young age of 17, Clara achieved her first teacher’s certificate. As a teacher she conducted an effective redistricting campaign that allowed the children of workers to receive an education.
- In 1855 Clara moved to Washington D.C. and got a job as a clerk in the U.S. Patent Office, making her the first woman to receive a substantial clerkship in the federal government and to have a salary equal to that of a man’s.
- In 1861 wanting to serve her country Clara selflessly took it upon herself to personally provide clothing, food, and supplies to sick and wounded soldiers of the Civil War earning herself the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield”.
- After the Civil War Clara contacted President Lincoln and asked to be granted permission to respond to the countless letters sent to the War Department by families searching for missing soldiers. The President agreed to let Barton help in this matter and thus “The Search for the Missing Men” commenced. Clara ran the Office of Missing Records in Washington D.C. Barton and her assistants wrote 41,855 replies to inquiries and helped locate over 22,000 missing men.
- Between 1865-1868 Clara Barton began to gather renown for giving lectures about her wartime experiences. During this time, she met Susan B. Anthony and became associated with the woman’s suffrage movement, she also met Frederick Douglass and became a civil rights activist.
- In 1869 she met Dr.Appia in Europe and was introduced to the Geneva, Switzerland based Red Cross. Dr.Appia soon invited Clara Barton to be the founder and representative for the American Red Cross.
- In 1870 before returning to the United States Barton assisted in the preparation of military hospitals and supplying work to the poor of Strasbourg during the Franco-Prussian War.
- In 1871 Clara took charge of distributing supplies to the destitute people of Paris after the Siege of Paris and provided the Red Cross society much aid during this time.
- At the close of the Franco-Prussian war Clara Barton was honored with the Golden Cross of Baden and the Prussian Iron Cross for her selfless aid and hard work.
As if this list wasn’t enough, once Barton returned to the United States in 1873 she began a movement to gain recognition for the International Committee of the Red Cross in the United States government. She then became President of the American branch of the Red Cross Society and in May 21, 1881 the first official meeting of the American Red Cross was held in her Washington D.C. apartment. The first local American Red Cross society was founded in August 1881 in Dansville, New York where Clara had a country home. From this time on under Clara’s leadership, the American Red Cross went on to provide invaluable aid to refugees, prisoners of war, soldiers and victims of natural disasters, outbreaks and famines. In 1897 Baron sailed to Constantinople and negotiated the opening of the very first International American Red Cross headquarters in the heart of Turkey. She continued to work in the field internationally and domestically to provide aid to people in need until 1900, when she was 79 years old. Her last field operation as the President of the American Red Cross was helping the victims of the Galveston hurricane, the operation established an orphanage for children. In 1904 at the age of 83 Clara Barton resigned from the American Red Cross and went on to live in Maryland until the age of 90 when she passed away in her home. Clara left behind a legacy that is still honored today by each volunteer and employee of the Red Cross; service to humanity. Clara Barton was truly a pioneer for women, she achieved an incredible amount in her life. So, this March, take a moment to appreciate the Red Cross for the aid it provides to those in need and to honor women in history, who like Clara, dedicated their lives to changing the world for the better.
Summers, C. (n.d.). Clara Barton Founder of the American Red Cross. Retrieved February 24, 2020, from https://www.truthaboutnursing.org/press/pioneers/clara_barton.html#gsc.tab=0
Founder Clara Barton. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2020, from
Bacon-Foster, C. (1918). Clara Barton, Humanitarian. Records of the Columbia Historical Society, 21, 83. https://www.jstor.org/stable/40067108?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents
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