Clarissa Harlow Barton was born in Oxford, Massachusetts, on the 25th of December in 1821. She was the youngest of six children, and she took a keen interest in education early in her life. When she was a toddler, she was sent to school with one of her older brothers, where she developed a love for reading. When she was ten, her brother fell off the roof of their barn and had to undergo surgery. Clara was dedicated to nursing him back to good health. This event sparked her passion and love for healing others, which would eventually lead to the wonderful legacy she left behind.
Clara decided to become a teacher at the age of fifteen and worked as an educator for several years; eventually, she opened a public school in Bordentown, New Jersey, in 1853. A year after opening the school, Clara moved to Washington, D.C. and worked at the Patent Office. Many people believe that she was perhaps the first woman in the United States to hold a government job. In the early 1860s when the Civil War broke out, Barton was one of the first volunteers at the local infirmary caring for the wounded soldiers. She went on to serve the injured soldiers on the field. She collected supplies and distributed them to the Union Army. She cared for the soldiers during combat in Fredericksburg, Virginia, as well as Antietam. Many soldiers addressed her as the “Angel of the Battlefield.”
In 1869 after the Civil War had ended, Clara visited Geneva, Switzerland, and was introduced to the Red Cross organization. While on her trip, she was asked to be the representative for the American Branch. Upon returning to the United States, she began to lobby to gain some recognition for the Red Cross. In 1881, the American Red Cross Society was founded with Barton serving as President until 1904. After leaving the Red Cross, Clara remained devoted to her philanthropic passion and delivered speeches and lectures concerning public health and health interventions. She also wrote many literary pieces that focused on public health, her experiences as a nurse, and the importance of health on a global spectrum. Barton died in Glen Echo, Maryland, on April 12, 1912.
The P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library owns a copy of The Red Cross: A History of this Remarkable International Movement in the Interest of Humanity, written by Clara Barton and published in the year 1898. The P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library will display a Civil War exhibit on major medical figures of the Civil War from Sept. 15 – Nov. 30. Be sure to come visit our Civil War exhibit and learn more about Clara Barton and her tremendous efforts in starting the American Red Cross Society.
Founder Clara Barton. American Red Cross website http://www.redcross.org/about-us/history/clara-barton. Viewed 9/12/2014.
Clara Barton: Relief Organizer/Humanitarian December 25, 1821 – April 12, 1912. Civil War Trust website http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/biographies/clara-barton.html. Viewed 9/12/2014.
Clara Barton. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Barton. Viewed 9/12/2014.
Clara Barton, dated 1904. From the Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division. No known restrictions on publication.
Postage stamp: U.S. Post Office; Smithsonian National Postal Museum. In the public domain.
For more information on the Nixon Library or to set up an appointment, contact Lisa Matye Finnie, Special Collections Librarian, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 210-567-2406.
Thank you for reading my blog post.
Mehak Sumar, Nursing Student