Once upon a time there was a shy little girl named Clara. She was born on Christmas in 1821, in Oxford, Massachusetts where she lived with her mother, father, and brother, David. Her father was a soldier who served under General “Mad” Anthony Wayne, and he taught Clara to love her country. Aside from David and her friend Nancy, Clara did not spend much time engaging with anyone because she was terribly withdrawn. Despite being so bashful, Clara had a natural skill of helping others, which was extremely evident when she helped David to recover from a fall off the roof of a barn when she was only 10 years old!
In here teenage years, Clara was too nervous to attend high school with numerous other students, but she learned many skills, both physical and social, from her peers in her family. Her parents suggested she help younger children learn and work as a teacher. She was hesitant to do so, but gave it a try. Clara proved to be a natural teacher, thanks to having taught herself how to do so much, and she went on to excel with even the toughest classes of kids in Georgia and Canada.
She later worked in the Patent Office as a clerk, but it was hardly as enjoyable for her. Clara was ridiculed by her male cowrokers, and eventually she was fired because of her tolerance toward non-whites. Fortunately, just a few years later, the new President, Abraham Lincoln, also shared her sentiment, and she returned to the US Patent Office hoping to inspire other women to work in government. However, Clara would find her true calling in the midst of the most horrible conflict in American history.
As the American Civil War raged on, Barton returned to her previous skills as a nurse, and became known as the “Angel of the Battlefield” for her efforts in saving lives and treating the wounded. After the war ended, Clara sought to bring closure to the families of the dead, so she headed the Office of Missing Soldiers, where she helped to locate and bury tens of thousands of previously “missing” men who had been killed in battle.
Such was the incredible first half of the life of Clara Barton, an amazing woman who pushed through social and personal limitations to become one of the most influential humanitarians in history. Her greatest accomplishment occurred 137 years ago today, when she founded the American National Red Cross. At the time there already existed an International Red Cross, but no chapter was present in the United States. She worked to create this new branch after her experience working with the international group in Europe during the Franco-Prussian War. The American Red Cross (ARC) was not immediately born, and grew thanks to Barton’s connections with wealthy and influential people such as John D. Rockefeller and Frederick Douglass. Barton would serve as the president of the ARC until 1904 when she was 83.
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Per Humanitatem ad Pacem,