Photograph of Clara Barton by Mathew Brady (1865).
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Clara Barton (1821–1912)
Nurse, Educator, Humanitarian
Born on Christmas Day in 1821 in North Oxford, Massachusetts, America’s most famous nurse, Clarissa “Clara” Harlowe Barton, found her calling as a child, when she assigned herself the task of nursing her brother back to health after a severe accident. During the Civil War, Barton risked her life to bring supplies to Union soldiers in need and tend to the wounded, earning the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield.” She also helped locate missing soldiers and notify their families and testified before Congress about her experiences. In 1869, Barton traveled through Europe, where she learned about the Switzerland-based International Red Cross, and upon returning to the U.S. began to lobby for an American branch of the humanitarian organization. She founded the American Red Cross in 1881 and served as its president until 1904. She devoted much of her life to advancing women’s rights. Under her leadership the American Red Cross provided aid to refugees of the Spanish-American War, responded to humanitarian crises in Turkey and Cuba, and aided victims of floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters in the United States. After leaving the Red Cross, Barton established the National First Aid Association of America to supply first aid kits and promote emergency preparedness. Barton died in 1912 at her home in Glen Echo, Maryland, leaving behind a legacy of a lifetime spent in service to humanity.