Clara Barton: Things You Should Know About the Woman Behind the American Red Cross


Clarissa Harlowe Barton, better known as Clara Barton, is best known for founding the American Red Cross. Barton was a nurse and suffragist who helped the wounded during the Civil War and dedicated her life serving others in need. Here are some things you should know about this amazing woman.

Early Life

Clara Barton was born on Christmas Day in 1821, in Oxford, Massachusetts. She found her calling in helping others at a young age when her brother became seriously ill and nursed him for two years. To overcome her shyness, Clara’s mother suggested she become a teacher, and at fifteen, began teaching students and even opened up a free public school in New Jersey years later. Clara would step down as a teacher and head to Washington D.C., where she became the first female clerk at the U.S. Patent Office. Sadly, she lost her job when Democrat James Buchanan won the presidency in 1856.

Civil War

When the Civil War began, Barton wanted to help soldiers by giving out food and supplies for the Union Army. She did not like sitting on the sidelines while troops where getting injured and killed and began serving as a nurse and cared for the wounded. For her dedicated work, especially during the battles of Antietam and Fredericksburg, Barton was given the nickname “the angel of the battlefield.” After the war was over, Barton set up a business that located and identified prisoners, missing people and the dead buried in unmarked graves. Barton would also give lectures and speeches to crowds about her work in the war, however, exhausted from her lecture tour, she set out to Europe.

Establishing the American Red Cross

During her time in Europe, Barton traveled to Switzerland and met with doctors who had established what would later become known as the International Committee of the Red Cross. While in Europe, Barton also organized a relief effort in France during the Franco-Prussian War. Soon Barton would return to the United States and focused on publicizing the International Red Cross, trying to gain support for the American Red Cross. With determination and continued efforts, the American Red Cross Society was founded in 1881 and Barton was its first president. As president, Barton directed people to relief during natural disasters and victims of feminine.

Later Years

In 1886, Barton moved back to Washington D.C., and after several attempts, the U.S. Congress declared the American Red Cross as a non-profit organization, providing relief to the U.S. military and disaster relief. During the early 1900s, there was a power struggle and Barton stepped down as president. Before her death in 1912, Barton also established the National First Aid Association of America, which mission was to promote basic first aid instruction. Clara Barton will forever be remembered for her hard work and dedication to helping others in distress.

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