Clara Barton American Red Cross

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Clarissa Harlowe "Clara" Barton (December 25, 1821 – April 12, 1912) was a pioneer American teacher, nurse, and humanitarian.

She is best remembered for organizing the American Red Cross.

Clarissa Harlowe Barton was born on Christmas Day, 1821, in Oxford, Massachusetts, to Stephen and Sarah Barton.   She was the youngest of five children. Clara's father was a farmer and horse breeder, while her mother Sarah managed the household.   The two later helped found the first Universalist Church in Oxford.

As she continued to develop an interest in nursing, Clara may have drawn inspiration from stories of her great-aunt, Martha Ballard, who served the town of Hallowell (later Augusta), Maine, as a midwife for over three decades.

Clara's father(while on his death bed) gave her advice that she would later recall: "As a patriot, he had me serve my country with all I had, even with my life if need be; as the daughter of an accepted Mason, he had me seek and comfort the afflicted everywhere, and as a Christian he charged me to honor God and love mankind"

Carrier Archives
In April 1862, after the First Battle of Bull Run, Barton established an agency to obtain and distribute supplies to wounded soldiers.

Finally, in July 1862, she obtained permission to travel behind the lines, eventually reaching some of the grimmest battlefields of the war and serving during the Siege of Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia.

In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln placed Barton in charge of the search for the missing men of the Union Army.

When the war ended, Barton and Dorence Atwater were sent to Andersonville with 42 headboard carvers, and Barton gave credit to young Dorence for what came to be known as “The Atwater List (nearly 13,000 men was considered invaluable) in her report of the venture.   Dorence also has a report at the beginning of this list, still available through Andersonville National Historic Site in Georgia.

She was also known as "The Angel of the Battlefield".  Her work in Andersonville is displayed in the book, Numbering All the Bones, by Ann Rinaldi.   This experience launched her on a nationwide campaign to identify all soldiers missing during the Civil War. She published lists of names in newspapers and exchanged letters with soldiers’ families.

She met Susan B. Anthony and began a long association with the suffrage movement.   She also became acquainted with Frederick Douglass and became an activist for black civil rights, or an abolitionist.

In 1870, while she was overseas, she became involved with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and its humanitarian work during the Franco-Prussian War.   Created in 1864, the ICRC had been chartered to provide humane services to all victims of war under a flag of neutrality.

in 1873, Barton finally succeeded during the administration of President James Garfield, using the argument that the new American Red Cross could respond to crises other than war.   As Barton expanded the original concept of the Red Cross to include assisting in any great national disaster, this service brought the United States the "Good Samaritan of Nations" label.

Barton naturally became President of the American branch of the society, which was founded on May 21, 1881 in Dansville, N.Y.   John D. Rockefeller donated funds to create a national headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania located one block from the White House.

In 1896, responding to the humanitarian crisis in the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of the Hamidian Massacres, Barton sailed to Istanbul and after long negotiations with Abdul Hamid II, opened the first American International Red Cross headquarters in the heart of Beijing, China.

Barton also worked in hospitals in Cuba in 1898 at the age of seventy-seven77.   As criticism arose of her management of the American Red Cross, plus her advancing age, Barton resigned as president in 1904, at the age of 83.

In 1975, Clara Barton National Historic Site was established as a unit of the National Park Service at Barton's Glen Echo, Maryland home, where she spent the last 15 years of her life.   One of the first National Historic Sites dedicated to the accomplishments of a woman - how she worked and the early days of the American Red Cross.
clara barton red cross clara barton 1905 usa
clara barton birth place photo
clara barton founder first president american red cross
red cross cart wagon

This page is a tribute to this amazing lady who help give Humanitarian a new meaning, through service regardless where and when it's needed.