- Term Papers and Free Essays

Clara Barton

Essay by   •  October 31, 2015  •  Research Paper  •  2,304 Words (10 Pages)  •  1,371 Views

Essay Preview: Clara Barton

Report this essay
Page 1 of 10

Clara Barton spent her life helping people who were sick or wounded and instilled values of helping others in times of crisis, disaster, and war. Clarissa Harlowe Barton was born on Christmas day in 1821 at a time when women had few rights or ambitions outside of raising a family. She was the youngest of five children. Her father told her stories about war and being on the battlefield. His stories inspired her lifelong interest in military affairs. Her mother was an independent thinker and she “believed women should have the same rights as men.” Her parents helped shaped the person Clara became. Her legacy of helping people in times of disaster and war has a well-earned place in American history. Even though people did not believe that women could work on the front lines of the war, Clara Barton proved them wrong. Clara Barton was a “strong and brave presence on the battlefields.” Clara Barton was an amazing woman in history because she always put others before herself as shown by starting her own free school, teaching herself the skills of nursing so she could selflessly tend to soldiers on the battlefields, and founding the American Red Cross. Her legacy continues today through the work of the American Red Cross.

While still a teenager, her family encouraged her to become a teacher. Clara was very shy and her parents thought teaching would make her less shy. As Clara matured she found great joy in helping others. She often tutored poor children. She also began teaching in nearby schools. In 1850 she moved to Bordentown, New Jersey, for a teaching position. Clara Barton excelled as a teacher. She captured the imagination of her students so they were eager to learn. Clara believed everyone deserved an education. She later established the first free school in New Jersey, for people that could not afford to pay the fees for school for their children. Clara began with an initial six students and raised the number of children to six hundred over a few years. The school committee decided to hire a principal and chose a man over Clara. She was shocked and hurt. After all, she had founded the school and helped it grow to 600 students. But because she was a woman they did not think a woman could handle a position of such authority. Clara stayed on for a short time but the stress made her sick. She decided to resign because she needed to rest and regain her health. She was hurt that the school did not trust her with the administrative role. Upon leaving she said "I may sometimes be willing to teach for nothing, but if paid at all, I shall never do a man's work for less than a man's pay."

[pic 1]

Clara Barton, 1850’s

Clara Barton moved to Washington D.C. and once there she decided to leave teaching and obtained a position as a copyist in the Patent Office. She was one of the first women in the U.S. to work for the government. It was during this time when the first units of federal troops came into the city in 1861. The war had just begun. Clara saw an immediate need in all the chaos for providing support to the men in uniform, some were already wounded, many were hungry, and some did not have any bedding or clothes except what they had on their backs. She started by taking supplies to the young men. Clara Barton quickly discovered that many were “her boys,” as she put it; she had grown up with some of them and some she had been their teacher. She heard stories about the battlefields from these young soldiers. She knew that where she was needed most was not behind the lines in Washington but on the battlefields where the suffering was greatest. She resigned her position in the patent office to provide help where it was needed.

Clara, like many other American women inspired by the work of Florence Nightingale, wanted to volunteer to care for sick and wounded soldiers. When Clara was 11 years old, her brother David fell off of a barn roof. He became very ill and the doctors thought his recovery was hopeless. Clara would not give up. For two years she nursed him back to health. During this time she bathed him, fed him, and gave him medicine. She hardly ever left his side. When he recovered he owed his life to his little sister. Clara later recalled, “I was the accepted and acknowledged nurse of a boy almost too ill too recover.” From this point in Clara’s life she became known in her family and community for her abilities to care for people.

Clara used connections with people developed through her work in the Patent Office to collect food and medical supplies for the war effort. “She used the supplies as a negotiating tool convincing the assistant quartermaster of the Union Army, Col. Daniel H. Rucker, to let her go to the battlefields. She was given passes to bring her voluntary services and medical supplies to the scenes of battle and field hospitals.”  In August 1862, she appeared at a field hospital at midnight with a wagon-load of supplies. The surgeon on duty, overwhelmed by the wartime disaster surrounding him, wrote later, “I thought that night if heaven ever sent out an angel, she must be one—her assistance was so timely.” Thereafter she was known as the “Angel of the Battlefield.” While the battles raged, she continued bringing relief and hope to the battlefield. Clara cared for both the northern and southern soldiers; she nursed, cared for, cooked for the wounded soldiers, and comforted the dying on the battlefield. In the face of danger, she wrote, “I always tried . . . to help the wounded until medical aid and supplies could come up—I could run the risk; it made no difference to anyone if I were shot or taken prisoner.” Clara served on the front line from 1862 to 1864.

Near the end of the war, exhausted from her battlefield work, she found herself writing to many families who inquired about men who had been reported missing.  She recognized an important need and did something useful to address it. In the month before his assassination, President Abraham Lincoln wrote: “To the Friends of Missing Persons: Miss Clara Barton has kindly offered to search for the missing prisoners of war. Please address her . . . giving her the name, regiment, and company of any missing prisoner.”  She began publishing lists of missing men and invited the public to write to her if they knew what had happened to the men. She used money she made through public speaking engagements, where she discussed her experiences on the battlefield to fund her searches. Clara Barton established the Office of Correspondence with Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army and operated it out of her rooms in Washington for four years. Through her efforts over 20,000 men were found. Years later, The American Red Cross established a tracing service, one of the organization’s most valued activities today.



Download as:   txt (13.8 Kb)   pdf (310 Kb)   docx (202.4 Kb)  
Continue for 9 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2015, 10). Clara Barton. Retrieved 10, 2015, from

"Clara Barton" 10 2015. 2015. 10 2015 <>.

"Clara Barton.", 10 2015. Web. 10 2015. <>.

"Clara Barton." 10, 2015. Accessed 10, 2015.