Wednesday, January 12, 2011

BARTON, CLARA Founder American Red Cross (c) By Polly Guerin

Dear Clara Barton: A gift to your parents Stephen and Sarah Barton, you were born on Christmas Day in 1821. On that day the world was introduced to Clarissa Harlow “Clara” Barton the youngest of five children, a female who would turn out to become a highly influential woman during her lifetime as a teacher, nurse, activist and humanitarian, but best remembered for founding the American Red Cross. Clara was a true pioneer, a woman determined to succeed beyond the call of duty in times of war and in times of peace, which made her a symbol of profound humanitarianism. She is honored as one of the great women of America.
After teaching for over 18 years and establishing a free public school in New Jersey, in the mid-1850s Clara moved to Washington D. C., to work as a copy clerk in the U.S. Patent Office. She was the first woman in the United States to hold such a government appointment. Soon after the outbreak of the Civil war, Clara’s was in Washington when the first units of federal troops poured into the city in 1861. Some were wounded, some hungry and some without clothing except for what they had on their backs. Not content to sit on the sidelines, Clara decided to work to provide supplies for the wounded and sick soldiers. She served as an independent nurse and gained support of the generals to travel to battle sites to distribute much need supplies and to tend to the needs of the soldiers.
Carla’s courage and determination to provide for the troops was legendary. After the battle at Cedar Mountain, she appeared at a field hospital at midnight with a four mule team load of supplies. Wrote the surgeon, “I thought that night if heaven ever sent out a holy angel, she must be one, her assistance was so timely.” Thereafter, Clara was known as “The Angel of the Battlefield.” She brought food, dressings to surgeons who had none left and lanterns to light the work of the medical staff. She herself cooked, comforted and nursed the wounded. Clara once said, “I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while our soldiers can stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them.”
After the war ended in 1865, Clara worked for the War Department helping to reunite missing soldiers with their families. She also became a lecturer that crowds attended, eager as they were to hear about her war experiences. While visiting Europe on a much need rest cure, Clara again could not sit by the sidelines, and volunteered with The International Red Cross during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. She knew the needs of war and went to the war zone to begin distributing relief supplies to the destitute in the conquered cities. To identify with the International Red Cross she used a red ribbon and made a cross to pin on her coat which became the first Red Cross symbol. The Swiss-inspired International Red Cross led to an American branch. Spearheaded by Clara Barton The American Red Cross was founded in Washington D. C. on May 21, 1881 and Barton served as its first president. Much to her credit she never took a salary from the organization and sometimes used her funds to support relief efforts. After years of service she retired in 1904. However she remained active, giving speeches and lectures and died at her home April 12, 1912.
By Clara Barton's words and her actions she is honored as a great American heroine who created The American Red Cross, an organization that still aids victims of natural disasters today.


  1. I read a biography of her when I was ten years old and I never forgot it. Truly a remarkable woman.

  2. I am going to email this link to my daughter, Kerry, who I homeschooled years ago, and who chose Clara Barton for a meant so much to her!! I know she will be delighted to read this post!! thanks!!