Clara Barton

Clara Barton

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Clarissa Harlowe "Clara" Barton (December 25, 1821 – April 12, 1912) was a pioneer American teacher
A teacher or schoolteacher is a person who provides education for pupils and students . The role of teacher is often formal and ongoing, carried out at a school or other place of formal education. In many countries, a person who wishes to become a teacher must first obtain specified professional...

, patent clerk
Patent clerk
A patent examiner is an employee, usually a civil servant, working at a patent office. Major employers of patent examiners are the European Patent Office , the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the Japan Patent Office.-Duties:Patent examiners review patent applications to determine...

, nurse, and humanitarian. She is best remembered for organizing the American Red Cross
American Red Cross
The American Red Cross , also known as the American National Red Cross, is a volunteer-led, humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance, disaster relief and education inside the United States. It is the designated U.S...


Youth, education, and family nursing

Clarissa Harlowe Barton was born on December 25, 1821, in Oxford, Massachusetts
Oxford, Massachusetts
Oxford is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 13,709 at the 2010 census.For geographic and demographic information on the census-designated place Oxford, please see the article Oxford , Massachusetts.-History:...

. Her father was Capt. Stephen Barton and her mother was Sarah (Stone) Barton and Clara was the youngest of five children (Dorothea b1804, Stephen b1806, David b1808, Sally b1811, and Clarissa b1821). Barton's father was a farmer and horse breeder who served as a captain in the Massachusetts militia, while her mother Sarah managed the household. The two later helped found the first Universalist Church in Oxford. Capt. Barton also served as a selectman in Oxford, MA. Barton preferred riding her father's horses and playing outdoors to playing 'house'.

When Barton was eleven, her brother David became her first patient after he fell from a rafter in their unfinished barn. Barton stayed at his side for three years and learned to administer all his medicines, including the "great, loathsome crawling leeches".

As she continued to develop an interest in nursing, Barton may have drawn inspiration from stories of her great-aunt, Martha Ballard
Martha Ballard
Martha Moore Ballard was an American midwife, healer, and diarist.Martha Ballard is known today from her diary, which gives us a rare insight to the life of the average midwife and woman in 18th century Maine. Born on February 20, 1735, Ballard grew up in a moderately prosperous family in Oxford,...

, who served the town of Hallowell (later Augusta), Maine, as a midwife for over three decades. Ballard helped deliver nearly one thousand infants between 1777 and 1812, and in many cases administered medical care in much the same way as a formally trained doctor of her era.

On his death bed, Barton's father gave her advice that she would later recall:
"As a patriot, he had me serve my country with all I had, even with my life if need be; as the daughter of an accepted Mason
Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around six million, including approximately 150,000 under the jurisdictions of the Grand Lodge...

, he had me seek and comfort the afflicted everywhere, and as a Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 he charged me to honor God and love all kind. The door that nobody else will go in at, seems always to open widely for me."

Early professional life

Barton became a school teacher in 1837 teaching in the area for a dozen years in schools at Oxford, N. Oxford, Charlton, and West Millbury. In 1850, Barton decided to further her education at the Clinton Liberal Institute in New York. She moved to Massachusetts, had no free public schools. In one year the school became so successful the town built a new school and hired a male principal for twice Barton's salary. Upset by the inequity, Barton resigned her position and moved to Washington DC. From 1854 to 1855 she worked as the first woman clerk in the US Patent Office, at a salary equal to men's salary. Subsequently, under political opposition to women working in government offices, her position was reduced to that of copyist, and in 1857, under the administration of James Buchanan
James Buchanan
James Buchanan, Jr. was the 15th President of the United States . He is the only president from Pennsylvania, the only president who remained a lifelong bachelor and the last to be born in the 18th century....

, eliminated entirely. After the election of Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

, having lived with relatives and friends in Massachusetts for three years, she returned to work at the patent office in the autumn of 1860, now as temporary copyist, in the hope she could pioneer to make way for more women in government service.

American Civil War

On April 21, 1861, nine days after the start of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, a trainload of Union soldiers was mobbed by Confederates in Baltimore, MD and arrived in Washington DC full of dead and wounded with no baggage or supplies. Barton tended to wounded soldiers (some from Massachusetts) quartered in the U.S. Senate chamber in Washington. Then after the First Battle of Bull Run
First Battle of Bull Run
First Battle of Bull Run, also known as First Manassas , was fought on July 21, 1861, in Prince William County, Virginia, near the City of Manassas...

, July 21, Barton established the main agency to obtain and distribute supplies to wounded soldiers. She was given a pass by General William Hammond to ride in army ambulances to provide comfort to the soldiers and nurse them back to health and lobbied the U.S. Army bureaucracy, at first without success, to bring her own medical supplies to the battlefields. Finally, on August 3, 1862, she obtained permission to travel to the front lines, eventually reaching some of the grimmest battlefields of the war and serving during the Siege of Petersburg
Siege of Petersburg
The Richmond–Petersburg Campaign was a series of battles around Petersburg, Virginia, fought from June 9, 1864, to March 25, 1865, during the American Civil War...

 and Richmond, Virginia. In 1864 she was appointed by Union General Benjamin Butler
Benjamin Franklin Butler (politician)
Benjamin Franklin Butler was an American lawyer and politician who represented Massachusetts in the United States House of Representatives and later served as the 33rd Governor of Massachusetts....

 as the "lady in charge" of the hospitals at the front of the Army of the James
Army of the James
The Army of the James was a Union Army that was composed of units from the Department of Virginia and North Carolina and served along the James River during the final operations of the American Civil War in Virginia.-History:...

. Among her more harrowing experiences was an incident in which a bullet tore through the sleeve of her dress without striking her and killed a man to whom she was tending.

American Red Cross

After the war, she ran the Office of Missing Soldiers, at 437 Seventh Street, Northwest, Washington, D.C. in the Gallery Place neighborhood.

Barton then achieved widespread recognition by delivering lectures around the country about her war experiences. She met Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony
Susan Brownell Anthony was a prominent American civil rights leader who played a pivotal role in the 19th century women's rights movement to introduce women's suffrage into the United States. She was co-founder of the first Women's Temperance Movement with Elizabeth Cady Stanton as President...

 and began a long association with the woman's suffrage
Suffrage, political franchise, or simply the franchise, distinct from mere voting rights, is the civil right to vote gained through the democratic process...

 movement. She also became acquainted with Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass was an American social reformer, orator, writer and statesman. After escaping from slavery, he became a leader of the abolitionist movement, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing...

 and became an activist for black civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

. In 1869, during her trip to Geneva, Switzerland, Barton was introduced to the Red Cross and Henry Dunant
Henry Dunant
Jean Henri Dunant , aka Henry Dunant, was a Swiss businessman and social activist. During a business trip in 1859, he was witness to the aftermath of the Battle of Solferino in modern day Italy...

's book A Memory of Solferino, which called for the formation of national societies to provide relief voluntarily on a neutral basis.

When Clara Barton returned to the United States, she inaugurated a movement to gain recognition for the International Committee of the Red Cross by the United States government.[5] When she began work on this project in 1873, most Americans thought the U.S. would never again face a calamity like the Civil War, but Barton finally succeeded during the administration of President Chester Arthur, using the argument that the new American Red Cross
American Red Cross
The American Red Cross , also known as the American National Red Cross, is a volunteer-led, humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance, disaster relief and education inside the United States. It is the designated U.S...

 could respond to crises other than war.

Barton naturally 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, 1881. The first local society was founded August 22, 1881 in Dansville, N.Y., where she maintained a country home.

The society's role changed with the advent of the Spanish-American War
Spanish-American War
The Spanish–American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence...

 during which it aided refugees and prisoners of the civil war. In 1896, responding to the humanitarian crisis in the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of the Hamidian Massacres
Hamidian massacres
The Hamidian massacres , also referred to as the Armenian Massacres of 1894–1896, refers to the massacring of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, with estimates of the dead ranging from anywhere between 80,000 to 300,000, and at least 50,000 orphans as a result...

, Barton sailed to Istanbul
Istanbul , historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople , is the largest city of Turkey. Istanbul metropolitan province had 13.26 million people living in it as of December, 2010, which is 18% of Turkey's population and the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Europe after London and...

 and after long negotiations with Abdul Hamid II
Abdul Hamid II
His Imperial Majesty, The Sultan Abdülhamid II, Emperor of the Ottomans, Caliph of the Faithful was the 34th sultan of the Ottoman Empire...

, opening the first American International Red Cross headquarters in the heart of Turkey. Barton herself traveled along with five other Red Cross expeditions to the Armenian provinces in the spring of 1896, providing relief and humanitarian aid. Barton also worked in hospitals in Cuba in 1898 at the age of seventy-seven. Barton's last field operation as President of the American Red Cross was the relief effort for the victims of the Galveston hurricane of September 1900. The operation established an orphanage for children of the 6,000 dead, helped to acquire lumber for rebuilding houses, and teamed with the New York World
New York World
The New York World was a newspaper published in New York City from 1860 until 1931. The paper played a major role in the history of American newspapers...

newspaper to accept contributions for the relief effort. As criticism arose of her management of the American Red Cross, plus her advancing age, Barton resigned as president in 1904, at the age of 83. After resigning, Barton founded the National First Aid Society
National First Aid Society
National First Aid Society was founded by Clara Barton after her resignation from the American Red Cross. Its mission was to promote local first aid programs. It later became part of the American Red Cross.-External links:**...

On April 12, 1912 at the age of 90 she died in Glen Echo, Maryland
Glen Echo, Maryland
Glen Echo is a town in Montgomery County, Maryland, United States, that was chartered in 1904. The population was 242 at the 2000 census.Glen Echo derives its name from Edward and Edwin Baltzley, who came up with name circa 1888...

 with all her friends by her side.

Religious beliefs

Various authorities have called Barton a “Deist-Unitarian" or freethinker
Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds that opinions should be formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason, and should not be influenced by authority, tradition, or other dogmas...

 or deist. Although not formally a member of the Universalist Church of America
Universalist Church of America
The Universalist Church of America was a Christian Universalist religious denomination in the United States . Known from 1866 as the Universalist General Convention, the name was changed to the Universalist Church of America in 1942...

, in a 1905 letter to the widow of Carl Norman Thrasher, she identified herself with her parents' church as a "Universalist”.

Clara Barton National Historic Site

In 1975, Clara Barton National Historic Site
Clara Barton National Historic Site
The Clara Barton National Historic Site, which includes the Clara Barton House, was established in 1974 to interpret the life of Clara Barton , an American pioneer teacher, nurse, and humanitarian who was the founder of the American Red Cross. The site is located northwest of Washington D.C...

, located at 5801 Oxford Road, Glen Echo, Maryland
Glen Echo, Maryland
Glen Echo is a town in Montgomery County, Maryland, United States, that was chartered in 1904. The population was 242 at the 2000 census.Glen Echo derives its name from Edward and Edwin Baltzley, who came up with name circa 1888...

, was established as a unit of the National Park Service
National Park Service
The National Park Service is the U.S. federal agency that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations...

 at Barton's home, where she spent the last 15 years of her life. One of the first National Historic Sites
National Historical Park
National Historic Sites are protected areas of national historic significance in the United States. A National Historic Site usually contains a single historical feature directly associated with its subject...

 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. She was born in a house which is now a museum.

The National Park Service has restored eleven rooms, including the Red Cross offices, the parlors and Barton's bedroom. Visitors to Clara Barton National Historic Site can gain a sense of how Barton lived and worked. Guides lead tourists through the three levels, emphasizing Barton's use of her unusual home. Modern visitors can come to appreciate the site in the same way visitors did in Clara Barton's lifetime.

See also

Places named for Clara Barton
:*Barton County, Kansas
Barton County, Kansas
Barton County is a county located in Western Kansas, in the Central United States. As of the 2010 census, the county population was 27,674. Its county seat and most populous city is Great Bend. The county is named in honor of Clara Barton, responsible for the founding of the American Red Cross...

  • Clara Barton School in Bordentown, New Jersey
    Bordentown, New Jersey
    Bordentown City is in Burlington County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city population was 3,924. Bordentown is located at the confluence of the Delaware River, Blacks Creek and Crosswicks Creek...

  • Clara Barton Drive in Fairfax Station, Virginia
    Fairfax Station, Virginia
    Fairfax Station is a census-designated place in Fairfax County, Virginia, ZIP code 22039. The population as of the 2010 Census was 12,030. As a suburb of Washington, DC, it is a bedroom community for many who work in the federal government.-Averages:...

  • Barton Hall, Iowa State University
  • Clara Barton Primary school in Oxford, MA
  • Clara Barton subdivision of Edison, NJ
  • Clara Barton Parkway in Maryland
  • Clara Barton Rest Area in New Jersey
  • Clara Barton District, a regional association of Unitarian Universalist Association member congregations
  • Clara Barton Elementary School in Bronx, New York
  • Clara Barton Elementary School in Cherry Hill, New Jersey
    Cherry Hill, New Jersey
    Cherry Hill is a township in Camden County, New Jersey, in the United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the township had a population of 71,045, representing an increase of 1,080 from the 69,965 residents enumerated during the 2000 Census...

  • Clara Barton Elementary School in Corona, California
  • Clara Barton Elementary School in Alton, Illinois
  • Clara Barton Elementary School in Anaheim, California
  • Clara Barton Elementary School in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania
  • Clara Barton Elementary School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Clara Barton Open School in Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Clara Barton School in Fargo, North Dakota
  • Clara Barton Woods in Lake Clear, New York
  • Clara Barton Street in Dansville, NY
    Dansville, Livingston County, New York
    Dansville is a village in the town of North Dansville in the eastern part of Livingston County, New York, United States. As of the census, the village population was 4,832. The village is named after Daniel Faulkner, an early settler. Interstate 390 passes next to the west side of the village.-...

  • Clara Barton High School
    Clara Barton High School
    Clara Barton High School is a public high school in Brooklyn, New York, that teaches from 9th grade to 12th grade. It is located at 901 Classon Avenue, across from Prospect Heights High School and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The school is named for Clara Barton, an American teacher, nurse, and...

     in Brooklyn, New York
  • Clara Barton High School in Elizabeth, New Jersey
    Elizabeth, New Jersey
    Elizabeth is a city in Union County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city had a total population of 124,969, retaining its ranking as New Jersey's fourth largest city with an increase of 4,401 residents from its 2000 Census population of 120,568...

  • Clara Barton Community Center, Cabin John, MD
  • Clara Barton First Aid Squad, Edison NJ
  • Barton
    Barton (crater)
    Barton crater is a 54-km diameter crater on Venus. It is the size at which craters on Venus begin to possess peak-rings instead of a single central peak. The floor of Barton crater is flat and radar-dark, indicating possible infilling by lava flows sometime following the impact...

    , a crater on Venus
    Venus is the second planet from the Sun, orbiting it every 224.7 Earth days. The planet is named after Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty. After the Moon, it is the brightest natural object in the night sky, reaching an apparent magnitude of −4.6, bright enough to cast shadows...

  • Barton's Crossing, Pittsfield, MA
  • Barton Center for Diabetes Education
    Barton Center for Diabetes Education
    The Barton Center for Diabetes Education is an independent, non-profit 501 organization, located in North Oxford, Massachusetts, dedicated to the education of children living with diabetes and their families and caregivers through year-round programs...

    , North Oxford, MA
  • Barton Hall at Montclair State University
    Montclair State University
    Montclair State University is a public research university located in the Upper Montclair section of Montclair, the Great Notch area of Little Falls, and Clifton, New Jersey. As of October 2009, there were 18,171 total enrolled students: 14,139 undergraduate students and 4,032 graduate students...

     in Upper Montclair, New Jersey
    Upper Montclair, New Jersey
    Upper Montclair is northern Montclair, which is usually reckoned as everything north of Watchung Avenue. Upper Montclair takes up approximately one third of Montclair, New Jersey-Education:...

Published works

  • Barton, Clara H. The Red Cross-In Peace and War Washington, D.C.: American Historical Press, (1898)
  • Barton, Clara H. Story of the Red Cross-Glimpses of Field Work New York: D. Appleton and Company, (1904)

External links