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Clara Barton

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Clara Barton

The author, Elizabeth Brown Pryor, wrote her biography of Clara Barton with the intent to not only tell her life, but to use personal items (diary and letters) of Clara’s found to help fill information of how Clara felt herself about incidents in her life. Her writing style is one that is easy to understand and also one that enables you to actually get pulled into the story of the person. While other biographical books are simply dry facts, this book, with the help of new found documents, allows Pryor to give a modern look on Barton’s life. This book gave a lot of information about Ms. Barton while also opening up new doors to the real Clara Barton that was not always the angel we hear about. Pryor’s admiration for Ms. Barton is clear in her writing, but she doesn’t see her faults as being a bad thing, but rather as a person who used all available means to help her fellow soldiers and friends along in life.

Born on December 25, 1921, Clara grew up in a family of four children, all at least 11 years older than her (Pryor, 3). Clara’s childhood was more of one that had several babysitters than siblings, each taking part of her education. Clara excelled at the academic part of life, but was very timid among strangers. School was not a particularly happy point in her life, being unable to fit in with her rambunctious classmates after having such a quiet childhood. The idea of being a burden to the family was in Clara’s head and felt that the way to win the affection of her family was to do extremely well in her classes to find the love that she felt was needed to be earned. She was extremely proud of the positive attention that her achievement of an academic scholarship (Pryor, 12). This praise for her accomplishment in the field of academics enriched her “taste for masculine accomplishments”. Her mother however, began to take notice of this and began to teach her to “be more feminine” by cooking dinners and building fires (Pryor, 15). The 1830’s was a time when the women of the United States really began to take a stand for the rights that they deserved (Duiker, 552). Growing up in the mist of this most likely helped Barton become the woman she turned out to be. Barton grew up with her older brothers and male cousins being her main companions of her younger life. Quickly adapting to their style of play, she was not interested in the dolls that most young girls were interested in. She wanted to become involved in school and have adventurous activities rather than doing the house work (Pryor, 15). The age of romanticism was around this era as well. Clara could have been influenced by the literature and the overall help she received from her family in her studies. Clara loved being outside, especially when it came to dealing with riding her horse over the land. She

Clara’s first contact with really serving others came at the age of 11 when her older brother David became ill and became his “bedside nurse”. She tended to all of David’s needs and became adapt at handling the leaches that was part of his treatment for nearly two years. Once David’s treatments changed however, Clara was left with what she felt was wasted time, she began to take on more responsibilities with the farm they lived on, as well helping both her sister out with taking care of the children, but helping tutor the poorer children and care for the sick in her community. (Pryor, 17)

About the age of eighteen, Clara began her first job teaching and quickly found that she had a natural talent to conduct the attention of her students. She turned around the “social outcast” view of her as she blossomed into an ambitious teacher full of ideas for the classroom. One of her larger projects occurred during the early 1940’s. It was becoming apparent to Clara the need to “redistrict the schools in the town of Oxford” due to the population of the town growing so rapidly. There was simply not enough room to fit all the children nor were there enough books (textbooks of the same brand/issue) or school supplies to go round. After several attempts at trying to convince the town that schools needed to be redistricted, Clara and her brother Stephen were able to win over the population, and went on to help design the new schools where she continued to teach until around 1860 when she began her work at the Patent Office.

During this time as a teacher and working in the patent office, tensions between the northern and southern states increased to a turning point. On April 12, 1961, the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter which signaled the beginning of the Civil War. President Lincoln called for a volunteer army to protect the national capital. Barton was immediately present to help tend to the soldier’s needs. She quickly took a collection of the people who lived in the area and distributed food and other useful articles that was donated. She also wrote to her home community of Worcester asking for supplies for their sons and brother (Pryor, 80). While she got what she felt was an overwhelming amount of items, the materials she needed to aid these thousands of men was not yet present. Using an advertisement appealing to people’s Christian religion, she received so many boxes of supplies that she had to rent a warehouse to keep it all. And what was not sent was bought out of her own pocket money to help “her boys” (Pryor, 81). Barton moved from battlefield to battlefield, always helping wherever she could and bringing along much needed supplies, earning herself the title of “angel of the battlefield (Pryor, 99). After the war ended, she was enlisted to help identify and find missing soldiers for the waiting families (Pryor, 134).

In 1970, Barton, under doctor’s orders, was recommended to take a break from the never ending work in Europe to get well from her own cold. While in Europe, Barton first learned of the International Convention of Geneva, otherwise known as the Red Cross. Leaders of this group had heard of her deeds in the Civil War and congratulated her on a job well, done, but questioned her as to why the United States never consented to the Geneva Convention articles. Barton herself had never heard of this Geneva Convention or of the Red Cross, but was surprised at the idea that United States never signed such a commendable idea (Pryor, 157). While visiting the Red Cross storages, she found that such preparedness could bring a great deal of relief to the soldiers quicker. During her time in Europe, the Franco-Prussian War both began and ended, and through it all, Barton was



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