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Clara Barton – American Red Cross Essay, Research Paper

Imagine being a soldier in the Civil War. You get shot in the leg and there is no way you will be able to survive without help. There are no surgeons or nurses around to assist you and no proper materials to mend the wound yourself. Clara Barton grew up as a young schoolteacher moving from place to place. Later in life, finding out that much help was needed during times of war and disaster, she started the American Red Cross. Clara Barton was remembered and honored for her service she gave in times of need, she is a good remodel to all.

Clarissa Harlowe Barton was born on Christmas day, December 25, 1821. She was born in a small hospital in North Oxford, Massachusetts. Clara was born to Stephen and Sara Barton. She was the youngest of five children; she had two brothers and two sisters. Clara’s parents thought she was special because she was a Christmas child. (”The True Heroine” 1)

Clara’s parents decided when she was 3 years old that Clara should start going to school. So at the age of 3, Clara enrolled in school for the first time. Clara’s teachers saw her as a very promising student. The teachers gave her much attention and praise all during school. (”The True Heroine” 1)

All through Clara’s life her father, Stephen, had his children sit around the living room listening to his stories. When Clara was 11, she learned a great deal about military etiquette, battle strategy, and first aid tips (Hamilton 17). So when Clara’s brother David fell from the barn rafters, Clara left school to take care of him at home (”The True Heroine” 2).

At the age of 13, Clara realized that there were many families that were in need of help. Clara helped nurse poor families and tutored children. She could not become a certified nurse because there were no nursing schools, so she had to learn everything she knew while on the job (Hamilton 39). Nursing was hard for Clara, not knowing what she was doing. So when Clara turned 16, Doctor Lorenzo Fowler, a phrenologist, told her parents that Clara should start teaching school (”The True Heroine” 2).

Following Doctor Fowler and her parents advice, Clara started teaching at a small school in her town. While Clara was teaching, she found the school supplies to be very inadequate for the children. She knew she had to do something about it so she made a plan to bring this to the town meeting. She was granted her request to improve the school and within the year Clara was very pleased with her first big accomplishment. (”The True Heroine” 2)

Though Clara liked teaching, she didn’t feel she was doing enough. She felt like she should being doing more for herself, her future, and her family. In 1845. Clara started a school on her own for the mill workers. She started a free public school, a building was built for her. She was denied the position of principal because she was a women. They found a male principal. Clara was upset about this and left the school. (Curtis 1)

When Clara was 25, she was unemployed. That is when her brother David became seriously ill with a fever. Her family could not afford to get him a nurse to stay at the house and her parents were too busy to stay at home with him. Clara was given the task of nursing her brother. She learned about all of his medications from the doctor and about what to do when there were serious problems. (Hamilton 21) After Clara’s brother recovered in the mid-1840s, Clara began helping the less fortunate and families in trouble (”The True Heroine” 2).

Clara went back to school to learn more on how to help the less fortunate. She left home in the early 1850s to go back to school. She went out of state to Clinton Liberal Institute out of state. However, Clara’s mother, Sara Barton passed away in July 1851 and Clara was left with many difficulties on her shoulders. She was burdened with the family’s financial problems, so she that knew she could not go to school. She knew that she would have to go to work instead, so she moved in with some of her friends in Highstown, New Jersey and started teaching again in a local school. (”The True Heroine” 2)

The Civil War broke out in April 1861 when Fort Sumter was fired upon. Clara heard and went right there (”The True Heroine” 3). According to William D. Hasley, author of Collier’s Encyclopedia, “She rented a warehouse, filled markey baskets, and petitioned friends in New England and New Jersey to send comforts for the soldiers” (645). The knowledge Clara gained about the battlefield from her father’s inspiration in his stories to help her out with the war. Women were not allowed to be on the battlefield, but Clara knew she had to manage somehow. Once Clara was allowed to help out the surgeons. (Hamilton 40)

The first time Clara was in a fieldhouse was on August 2, 1861 when she delivered supplies to Fredericksburg. Clara was disgusted with how dirty the hospital and supplies were. Clara aided in the war effort by getting provisions for the soldiers in Washington. When Clara helped the soldiers by making bandages, preparing food, cleaning hospitals, and assisting in many surgeries. Clara had seen enough surgical procedures to be able to do them herself. (”The True Heroine” 3) The U.S. Sanitary Commission provided the Civil War with nurses, supplies, bandages, and clothing. The U.S. Sanitary Commission watched over the nurses to make sure that what they were doing was correct. (Hamilton 39)

Clara felt she needed to get onto the battlefield but they were still very strict with regard to allowing women on to the battle field. This made Clara very mad, so she walked many miles to sneak in. Clara was caught and labeled a spy until a man stood bravely from the crowd and admitted knowing Clara right before she was put to death. So wherever Clara went she had to wear an armband that identified her as being a nurse. After this, women were allowed on the battlefield. (Hamilton 77) According to William D. Hasley, author of Collier’s Encyclopedia, “It was her iron kettle, hot gruel, and much that were welcomed after the battles” (646).

In the summer of 1863, Clara met up with her brother David. He was a quartermaster of the Department of the South, so she assisted him, until July 16, 1863. When Fort Wagner was attacked right where Clara was stationed. Clara was shot while helping a wounded victim; she was not killed, but she was shot in the arm. There were few surgeons available, so Clara had to keep everyone in high spirits. (”The True Heroine” 7)

On June 23, 1864 Clara was put in charge of X Corps Hospital in Virginia. She had to leave the hospital in January 1865 because she heard about her dying brother, Stephen. Clara went back home to care for her brother and heard that her father had died 3 years earlier. (Curtis 5) Right after Stephen recovered, Clara became very ill with typhoid fever. It took her months of recuperation before she could go back to helping on the battlefields (”The True Heroine” 4).

When Clara went back to the war in 1866, she became superintendent of nurses for the Army (Hamilton 63). After the Civil War ended in the fall of 1866, Clara went around from state to state to deliver lectures about the Civil War. She told people what the war was like and advised people to help out during these times. (”The True Heroine” 5)

Clara went even farther after the war by looking for missing soldiers. Before Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in April, he gave Clara permission to search for missing soldiers after the war. Clara worked very hard letting everyone know the names of the missing soldiers, by publishing, posting, and distributing lists of the soldiers names every where in the United States. (”The True Heroine” 5) While looking for the missing soldiers, Clara had to identify graves of thousands of the Andersonville prisoners. Nearly 13,000 graves were identified and 400 marked “Unknown Soldier” in mid-August (”The True Heroine” 5). After Clara published the newspapers with the missing soldier’s names, she received many replies. Clara worked on finding the missing men for over four years. She notified the family members of any men she found during her search. After Clara finished her search, she received $15,000 to cover her expenses. (Hamilton 65)

Some groups were not pleased with the work Clara was doing. The Sanitary Commissions and Christian Commission nearly forced Clara away from her work, insisting that she needed to work with them and not so independent. So Clara had to change her ways, knowing she didn’t want to stop nursing. (”The True Heroine” 5) Clara joined a suffrage movement on November 30, 1867 with Elizabeth Cady and Susan B. Anthony. They raised money for disasters and used this money any way they could to help the victims. Clara made sure that all victims of disasters were aided by volunteers. (Hamilton 90)

In 1868 Clara spoke around the world about Women’s Rights. During this time, she was paid $75-100 per lecture that she gave about the Civil War and Women’s Rights. In December, 1868, Clara lost her voice while giving a speech due to mental problems and fatigue. Clara traveled to Europe to recuperate and regain her voice in 1869. (Curtis 7)

Clara stopped giving lectures to go visit her sister Sally when she was 48. While visiting her sister, Clara heard about the International Red Cross that was founded by Henri Dunant in 1864. Clara signed up with the International Red Cross on July 18, 1870. Clara liked being part of the Red Cross because of its effectiveness and efficient training of its members. (”The True Heroine” 6)

Clara met up with Antoinette Margot in September 1870. Margot became Clara’s co-worker. Clara was called “The Angel of the Battlefield” by James I. Dunn because she was always willing to help out in any battle. This name stuck with Clara the rest of her life (Hamilton 39). Clara was awarded for her humanitarian work with the Augusta Medal in 1871 (”The True Heroine” 7).

Clara again traveled to Europe to recuperate after losing her eyesight from nervous exhaustion in 1872. While there, Clara heard about her sister Sally’s death in the Spring of 1874. Clara became very depressed over Sally’s death and spent a great deal of time in a sanitarium in New York. (”The True Heroine” 6) While Clara was in New York, she came up with the idea of forming the American Red Cross in 1877. Clara worked hard on this idea, and on May 21, 1881 the American Red Cross was born. The first chapter of the American Red Cross opened on August 22, 1881. The United States Conference adopted the American Red Cross principals. (”The True Heroine” 7) Between 1884-1890 Clara traveled to lecture and promote the American Red Cross (”Clara Barton Chronology” 8).

The American Red Cross helped victims in fires, earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes during the 1880’s. They also supplied clothes and supplies to hospitals and set up orphanages and soup kitchens. (”The True Heroine” 9) Clara took the American Red Cross in the first overseas operation, she was helped by Julian Hubbell (Curtis 10). Later, Clara started teaching first aid classes through the American Red Cross. The American Red Cross has 7 principals: universality, unity, humanity, impartiality, service, independence, and neutrality. The American Red Cross promotes mutual understanding, friendship, cooperation, and peace. They stand for neutrality used for national relief societies. (”The Early Years” 1) The president of the American Red Cross was Clara Barton (”The True Heroine” 7). A few miles northwest of Washington a building is built for Clara. For years this building was used for the American Red Cross. The building used for the American Red Cross became Clara’s primary residence. (Curtis 10)

Clara left the American Red Cross to work at a women’s reformatory prison in Massachusetts on May 1883. Clara returned in 1884 to take the American Red Cross mobile to treat 200 illnesses in 6 days in the National Drill and Encampment. (”The True Heroine” 7) The International Red Cross never had a women delegate until Clara joined when she was 63 years old (Hamilton 93).

At 77 Clara was still working 16 hours a day helping victims at the American Red Cross. She was forced out of her presidency at the age of 82. When Clara was in her late 80’s she developed a bad case of pneumonia. Clara left the American Red Cross in 1904. (”The True Heroine” 8) The American Red Cross was completely reorganized after Clara’s resignation (Hamilton 103).

Clara was still working from her home in 1905 when she made the original first aid kit. Clara indulged in her interests in astrology, religion, and spiritualism. (Hamilton 104) At the end of her life, Clara wrote an autobiography entitled The Story of My Childhood which was published in 1907. Clara Barton died on April 12, 1912. After Clara’s death, the American Red Cross was still stationed in Clara’s home. (”The True Heroine” 8)

From then on Clara was remembered in history as the founder of the American Red Cross. Many people remember Clara as a very courageous lady in the times of the Civil War. We should give lots of thanks to Clara because if not for her we may not have the proper medical help that we have today. I hope I helped you to understand more of what Clarissa Harlowe Barton did and how the American Red Cross was founded.

“Clara Barton True Heroine of the Age.” Barton: www.geocities.com/Athens, 1999.

Curtis, Jade. “Clara Barton Chronology 1821-1912. “Barton: www.nps.gov/clba.chronl, 1998.

“Early Years of The American Red Cross.” Barton: www.redcross.org/pre1900, 2000.

Halsey, William D. “Barton, Clara.” Collier’s Encyclopedia 3 1978 ed.: pg. 645-646.

Hamilton, Leni. Clara Barton Founder, American Red Cross. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988.

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