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Clara Barton And The American Red Cross

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Clara Barton was an amazing woman and a true humanitarian according to Burton (1995). Born on Christmas day in 1821 to a middle class family in Oxford, Massachusetts, Barton would someday be famous and honored for her contributions to society and for laying the foundation of the American Red Cross.

Barton began her career at a young age; she began teaching school in her late teens. She taught school for 14-years in New Jersey before quitting after the school hired a male principle at almost twice the salary of Barton’s. After her teaching career Barton worked as a clerk in the Patent Office in Washington, DC (Burton, 1995). Barton was the first woman to work in the Patent Office.

When the Civil War broke out Barton left the Patent Office to become a volunteer. She solicited for supplies to help wounded soldiers. By 1862 she was granted permission to deliver these supplies to the frontline. Providing these services helped her to realize her true calling in life; that call being to respond to human needs. She continued delivering supplies and nursing soldiers for two years and by 1864 was named the superintendent of Union Nurses (Sahlman, n.d.). After the war Barton spent time lecturing about her war experiences; she also worked at the Office of Correspondence and spent time working with the suffragist movement. By 1869 Barton became ill and at the recommendation of her physician she traveled Europe to regain her health.

During Barton’s travels in Europe she learned about the Treaty of Geneva that created the Red Cross. The Treaty of Geneva provided relief to the sick and wounded soldiers. When she returned to the United States she attempted to have President Hayes sign the Treaty of Geneva in order to have a chapter of the Red Cross in the United States; he refused. She was a tireless woman; she worked hard and spent time traveling to Washington, D.C. for support; she gave speeches and wrote articles in an attempt to solicit the support of the public. By 1882 and under new leadership, Barton finally persuaded the United States Government to sign the treaty after which she was elected president at age 60; she served as president for 23-years. The Red Cross then became a formal member of the international organization know as the American Red Cross (American Red Cross, 2002).

Establishing the American Red Cross was one of Barton’s greatest achievements (American Red Cross, 2002). Several years after serving as President of the chapter she wrote an amendment to the American Red Cross constitution which addressed helping individuals not only during war-time, but during peace-time.

Clara Barton’s vision was to organize chapters of the American Red Cross in every state, city and town. Each organization would be prepared to serve communities during war-time and also during disasters such as fires, floods, epidemics, tornados and droughts (Marks, 2006).

The American Red Cross today continues providing relief to victims of disaster. They also help communities prepare



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