Monday, September 5, 2011

Clara Barton - Founder of the American Red Cross

My twenty-something daughter and her friends may consider me an old feminist, but as women in the 21st century we owe a tremendous debt to the pioneering women who came before us and took the first steps that led to the freedoms, choices, opportunities and comforts we enjoy today. In September, we celebrate Women of Achievement Month with profiles of some of those women.

When I considered the topic in the context of my writing, I immediately thought of Clara Barton. My books, Harvest of Dreams and A Man Like That, are set just after the end of the Civil War, at a time when conflict had destroyed the lives of millions of Americans. However, some lasting good did rise from those ashes. It was during the war that Clara Barton developed the interest in nursing and commitment to easing the suffering of others that ultimately led her to found the American Red Cross.

Clara Barton was born in 1821 in Oxford, MA. As a young woman, she went to work as the first female clerk in the US Patent Office in 1854. In April of 1861, just days after the firing on Fort Sumter, she volunteered to help tend soldiers from the Sixth Massachusetts Infantry who were quartered in the U.S. Senate chambers. She helped provide food, clothing and supplies to “her boys”, many of whom she knew from home.

In August of 1862, she received permission to travel to the front lines to provide desperately needed supplies to the field hospitals and became known as the “Angel of the Battlefield” after serving during such famous battles as Harpers Ferry, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Charleston. After the war, while visiting friends in Switzerland, she was introduced to the international Red Cross. She remained involved in various humanitarian activities through the 1870’s and in 1881, founded the American Association of the Red Cross with a group of supporters. The Red Cross flag was officially flown in this country for the first time in 1881, when they went to the aid of victims of a devastating forest fire in Michigan.

During the twenty-three years Clara Barton served as president, the Red Cross aided victims of war and natural disasters across the globe from Texas to Turkey. She resigned her post at the age of 83 and lived to the ripe old age of 90.

Think of some of the disasters that have occurred just in the past year: the Japanese Tsunami, Joplin tornado, and most recently hurricane Irene. The Red Cross has responded immediately with food, money and medical supplies to aid and comfort the victims. Our world today is a safer, more humane place today because of the work of Clara Barton, definitely a Woman of Achievement.


Jerri Hines/Carrie James-Haynes said...

I remember doing a report on Clara Barton when I was in school. Amazing lady. You're right. We have always been able to rely upon the American Red Cross.

Barbara Edwards said...

My sister went to the Clara Barton Birthplace Camp for diabetic children in Ma. Clara was an outstanding woman, and she would be a leader in any age.
Wonderful post although now I have to find someone else. sigh.

Jannine Gallant said...

Look at that face! She looks like a woman who gets things done. Great blog, Alison.

Vonnie Davis said...

Yes, we do laud strong women here at Roses of Prose, for we are each strong in our own right. But we owe our freedom to exert those rights to those, like Clara Barton, who came before us. Great post!

Laura Breck said...

Wow, she worked until she was 83. Amazing. She's a very interesting, strong woman. Thanks for sharing her story, Alison!

Alison H. said...

Sorry to scoop you with this choice, Barbara. It's bound to happen to one of us again. I've been working on who to do next, but no matter who I choose, another Rose may choose her first! I'm glad there are so many Women of Achievement who deserve recognition.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Alsion,
Great blog. Thank you for telling us Clara' story. I found it very interesting and informative.