Clara Barton

Clara Barton Clara Barton Clara Barton, known as an American humanitarian, the “Angel of the Battlefield,” and known for being the American Red Cross founder accomplished many things during her life. Throughout her long commitment of service, Clara achieved honor as a teacher, battlefield nurse, lecturer, and founder of the American Red Cross. Through her many years of work, Clara made a huge impact on America that can still be felt at present times. Clara was born Clarissa Harlowe Barton on Christmas Day of 1821 in North Oxford, Massachusetts. Her father, Captain Stephen Barton, and mother, Sarah Barton, raised her on a farm along with her two brothers, David and Stephen, and two sisters, Dorothy, and Sally.

Most of Clara’s education came from learning from her brothers and sisters; they were all older than her, so they had acquired a lot of information to share with her. Dorothy taught her spelling, Stephen helped her to understand arithmetic, she learned geography from Sally, and became more athletic with the coaching of David. With the vast interest her family gave into educating her, at age four Clara could already spell multi-syllable words. Her early education set the pace for her to achieve academic success in formal schooling. .

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In addition to getting a good start in academics, Clara also exhibited the skills it takes to be a nurse as a child. When Clara was young, she played make believe as a nurse and nursed pets back to help if they got hurt or were ill. At age eleven, Clara received real life training as a nurse when one of her brothers tragically fell off the roof of their barn and needed Clara to take care of him for two years. Clara’s mom also contributed to Clara’s ability to perform nursing duties by focusing more on teaching her the art of cleanliness and how to do the basic responsibilities of a woman such as how to sew, cook, and make soap. Clara, influenced by her sisters who were already teachers, began the first part of her career by becoming a teacher at age seventeen.

She began teaching in Worcester County of Massachusetts and taught in various others schools for 6 years. Clara then realized she needed a change and decided to open up her own school. After running her own school for a few years Clara recognized that she needed more change and at age 29, Clara enrolled in an advanced school for female teachers in Clinton, New York. This addition to her education led her to a teaching position in New Jersey which opened the opportunity for her to open several free schools there in New Jersey. Her schools were very successful and students flocked to be a part of them. After much success in her teaching career, Clara finally ran into rejection when the school board refused her the position of heading the school she had founded and instead gave the job to a less qualified man.

This greatly upset Clara and she again decided she needed a change, however this time the change was more dramatic. After recovering from the emotional effects of the events that occurred in New Jersey, Clara took a job in Washington D.C. as a copy clerk in the U.S. Patent Office. This job did not last long since at age 40, when the American Civil War broke out she felt the need to resign and become a volunteer for the Union. As a volunteer, Clara distributed supplies such as medicine, bandages, and food to the soldiers, assisted surgeons in amputations and stitching, and nursed wounded soldiers until they could be taken to a safe place.

Clara was even granted permission to deliver the supplies she assembled directly to the front of the battle ground. After delivering these services for two years, Clara’s benevolence became legendary and she was informally given the title of “Angel of the Battlefield.” After the war ended, Clara lectured about her war experiences, coordinated a national effort to locate soldiers who were missing in action, and was active in the suffrage movement. Locating soldiers basically became her life for the next three years. Clara got permission from President Lincoln to start this campaign to search for missing soldiers. Clara and other volunteers accomplished this feat by writing vast amounts of letters to obtain information that might lead them to know whether or not the missing soldiers were still alive.

While performing this duty for the nation, Clara was given a great honor by becoming the first woman to head a government bureau: the Missing Soldiers Office. Through all her efforts, information on close to 22,000 soldiers was retrieved before 1868 when the office was closed down. After three long years of relentless searching, Clara desperately needed a break. On doctors orders, Clara went to Europe to recover her emotional and physical health. While in Europe, Clara took on two more interests: the International Red Cross and the Treaty of Geneva. Clara was able to observe the Red Cross in action and volunteered her services during the Franco-Russian War, however she could not actually work for the organization because she was a woman. Clara was again honored for her heroism with Germany’s Iron Cross in 1871.

Clara’s experiences in Europe inspired her to return home and start something similar to what she had observed in Europe. As soon as she returned to America in1873 she began her crusade to persuade the United States to sign the treaty of Geneva. This treaty, which had already been signed by twelve other countries, provided relief for sick and wounded soldiers. Clara also took on the responsibility of lobbying for ratification of the American Red Cross which finally occurred in 1881. Clara served as president of this organization until 1904 when she was forced to resign due to overwhelming criticism about her style of leadership.

While president of the American Red Cross, Clara made an important contribution to the organization as a whole by realizing that it was important to take care of suffering people not only in wartime, but during peacetime also. The Red Cross was then able to intervene in situations such as famines, floods, pestilence, and earthquakes in places all around the world. Clara personally provided relief in many places such as Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Russia, and South America. After resigning as president of the American Red Cross, Clara moved to Glen Echo, Maryland where she began to live a more simple life. Clara relaxed and enjoyed horseback riding and kept up with the times for eight years until she died from complications of a cold in 1912 at age 91.

Her body was then taken back to her hometown of Oxford where she was buried. Clara Barton has since been remembered for her leadership and philanthropic accomplishments. Clara’s life mission can be summed up in her own words, “You must never so much as think whether you like it or not, whether it is bearable or not: you must never think of anything except the need, and how to meet it.” Bibliography Clara Barton, MIcrosoft Encarta Encyclopedia 99. 1993-1998 Microsoft Corporation. Smith and Jeffers. Gallant Women, New York, 1968. National Women’s Hall of Fame 1998.

Sahlman, Rachael. Clara Barton. Spectrum Home and School Magazine. IncWell DMG. History Essays.


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