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Clara Barton - Wikipedia
She was a hospital nurse in the American Civil War , a teacher , and patent clerk. Nursing education was not very formalized at that time and she did not attend nursing school, so she provided self-taught nursing care.
Her father was Captain Stephen Barton, a member of the local militia and a selectman who inspired his daughter with patriotism and a broad humanitarian interest. He was also the leader of progressive thought in the Oxford village area. When she was three years old, Barton was sent to school with her brother Stephen, where she excelled in reading and spelling.
At school, she became close friends with Nancy Fitts; she is the only known friend Barton had as a child due to her extreme timidity. When Barton was ten years old, she assigned herself the task of nursing her brother David back to health after he fell from the roof of a barn and received a severe head injury.
She learned how to distribute the prescribed medication to her brother, as well as how to place leeches on his body to bleed him a standard treatment at this time. She continued to care for David long after doctors had given up. He made a full recovery. Her parents tried to help cure her timidity by enrolling her to Colonel Stones High School, but their strategy turned out to be a catastrophe.
She was brought back home to regain her health. Upon her return, her family relocated to help a family member: a paternal cousin of Clara's had died and left his wife with four children and a farm. The house that the Barton family was to live in needed to be painted and repaired. After the work was done, Barton was at a loss because she had nothing else to help with, to not feel like a burden to her family.
She began to play with her male cousins and, to their surprise, she was good at keeping up with such activities as horseback riding. It was not until after she had injured herself that Barton's mother began to question her playing with the boys.
She invited one of Clara's female cousins over to help develop her femininity. From her cousin, she gained proper social skills as well. To assist Barton with overcoming her shyness, her parents persuaded her to become a schoolteacher. This profession interested Barton greatly and helped motivate her; she ended up conducting an effective redistricting campaign that allowed the children of workers to receive an education. Successful projects such as this gave Barton the confidence needed when she demanded equal pay for teaching.
Barton became an educator in for 12 years in schools in Canada and West Georgia. Barton fared well as a teacher and knew how to handle rambunctious children, particularly the boys, since as a child she enjoyed her male cousins' and brothers' company.
She learned how to act like them, making it easier for her to relate to and control the boys in her care. Barton decided to further her education by pursuing writing and languages at the Clinton Liberal Institute in New York. In this college, she developed many friendships that broadened her point of view on many issues concurring at the time.
The principal of the institute recognized her tremendous abilities and admired her work. This friendship lasted for many years, eventually turning into a romance. Her writings and bodies of work could instruct the local statesmen. No one could exceed her outstanding service to humanity in war and in peace. While teaching in Hightstown, Barton learned about the lack of public schools in Bordentown, the neighboring city.
Once completed, though, Barton was replaced as principal by a man elected by the school board. They saw the position as head of a large institution to be unfitting for a woman. She was demoted to "female assistant" and worked in a harsh environment until she had a nervous breakdown along with other health ailments, and quit. In , she moved to Washington D. For three years, she received much abuse and slander from male clerks. Victims within the Massachusetts regiment were transported to Washington D.
Wanting to serve her country, Barton went to the railroad station when the victims arrived and nursed 40 men. Barton quickly recognized them, as she had grown up with some of them, and some she had even taught.
Barton, along with several other women, personally provided clothing, food, and supplies for the sick and wounded soldiers. She learned how to store and distribute medical supplies and offered emotional support to the soldiers by keeping their spirits high. She would read books to them, write letters to their families for them, talk to them, and support them.
It was on that day that she identified herself with army work and began her efforts towards collecting medical supplies for the Union soldiers. Prior to distributing provisions directly onto the battlefield and gaining further support, Barton used her own living quarters as a storeroom and distributed supplies with the help of a few friends in early , despite opposition in the War Department and among field surgeons. In August , Barton finally gained permission from Quartermaster Daniel Rucker to work on the front lines.
She gained support from other people who believed in her cause. After the First Battle of Bull Run , Barton placed an ad in a Massachusetts newspaper for supplies; the response was a profound influx of supplies.
At the battle of Antietam, for example, Barton used corn-husks in place of bandages. In she began a romantic relationship with an officer, Colonel John J. In , she was appointed by Union General Benjamin Butler as the "lady in charge" of the hospitals at the front of the Army of the James.
She was known as the " Florence Nightingale of America". She arrived at a field hospital at midnight with a large amount of supplies to help the severely wounded soldiers. After the end of the American Civil War, Barton discovered that thousands of letters from distraught relatives to the War Department were going unanswered because the soldiers they were questioning about were buried in unmarked graves. Many of these soldiers were labeled just as "missing".
She was given permission, and "The Search for the Missing Men" commenced. Barton spent the summer of helping find, identify, and properly bury 13, individuals who died in Andersonville prison camp , a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp in Georgia. Barton achieved widespread recognition by delivering lectures around the country about her war experiences in — During this time she met Susan B.
Anthony and began an association with the woman's suffrage movement. She also became acquainted with Frederick Douglass and became an activist for civil rights.
After her countrywide tour she was both mentally and physically exhausted and under doctor's orders to go somewhere that would take her far from her current work. She closed the Missing Soldiers Office in and traveled to Europe. Appia; he later would invite her to be the representative for the American branch of the Red Cross and help her find financial benefactors for the start of the American Red Cross. She was also introduced to Henry Dunant 's book A Memory of Solferino , which called for the formation of national societies to provide relief voluntarily on a neutral basis.
At the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War , in , she assisted the Grand Duchess of Baden in the preparation of military hospitals, and gave the Red Cross society much aid during the war. In , she met with President Rutherford B. Barton finally succeeded during the administration of President Chester Arthur , using the argument that the new American Red Cross could respond to crises other than war such as natural disasters like earthquakes, forest fires, and hurricanes.
Barton became President of the American branch of the society, which held its first official meeting at her I Street apartment in Washington, DC, May 21, The first local society was founded August 22, in Dansville, Livingston County, New York , where she maintained a country home. The society's role changed with the advent of the Spanish—American War during which it aided refugees and prisoners of the civil war.
Once the Spanish—American War was over the great people of Santiago built a statue in honor of Barton in the town square, which still stands there today. Domestically in she helped in the floods on the Ohio river, provided Texas with food and supplies during the famine of and took workers to Illinois in after a tornado and that same year to Florida for the yellow fever epidemic. Barton herself traveled along with five other Red Cross expeditions to the Armenian provinces in the spring of , providing relief and humanitarian aid.
Barton also worked in hospitals in Cuba in at the age of seventy-seven. The operation established an orphanage for children. As criticism arose of her mixing professional and personal resources, Barton was forced to resign as president of the American Red Cross in , at the age of 83 because of her egocentric leadership style fitting poorly into the formal structure of an organizational charity. During the dedication, not one person said a word. This was done in order to honor the women and their services.
She continued to live in her Glen Echo, Maryland home which also served as the Red Cross Headquarters upon her arrival to the house in Barton published her autobiography in , titled The Story of My Childhood. The cause of death was pneumonia.
Although not formally a member of the Universalist Church of America ,  in a letter to the widow of Carl Norman Thrasher, she identified herself with her parents' church as a "Universalist". Your belief that I am a Universalist is as correct as your greater belief that you are one yourself, a belief in which all who are privileged to possess it rejoice.
In my case, it was a great gift, like St. Paul, I "was born free", and saved the pain of reaching it through years of struggle and doubt. My father was a leader in the building of the church in which Hosea Ballow preached his first dedication sermon. Your historic records will show that the old Huguenot town of Oxford, Mass. In this town I was born; in this church I was reared. Give, I pray you, dear sister, my warmest congratulations to the members of your society.
While she was not an active member of her parents' church, Barton wrote about how well known her family was in her hometown and how many relationships her father formed with others in their town through their church and religion.
As the first National Historic Site dedicated to the accomplishments of a woman, it preserves the early history of the American Red Cross, since the home also served as an early headquarters of the organization. The North Oxford, Massachusetts, house in which she was born is now also a museum. The National Park Service has restored eleven rooms, including the Red Cross offices, the parlors and Barton's bedroom.
Guides lead tourists through the three levels, emphasizing Barton's use of her unusual home. In the site was indefinitely closed due to repairs. The site was "lost" in part because the city realigned its addressing system in the s. In , General Services Administration carpenter Richard Lyons was hired to check out the building for its demolition. He found a treasure trove of Barton items in the attic, including signs, clothing, Civil War soldier's socks, an army tent, Civil War-era newspapers, and many documents relating to the Office of Missing Soldiers.