‚≠źÔłŹ Huck Funn

Clarissa Harlowe Barton¬†(December 25, 1821‚ÄďApril 12, 1912)

‚ú™ Clarissa Harlowe Barton was an American nurse who founded the¬†American Red Cross. She was a hospital nurse during the¬†American Civil War, a teacher and a government¬†patent clerk. Since formal nursing education did not exist at her time, the nursing care she provided was all self taught.¬†Barton is also noteworthy for doing humanitarian work and for her civil rights advocacy at a time period before women had secured the right to vote. In 1973, ¬†she was inducted into the¬†National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Clarissa Harlowe Barton was born on December 25, 1821 in the small farming community of¬†North Oxford, Massachusetts.¬†She was named after the main character of Samuel Richardson’s novel¬†Clarissa. Her father was Captain Stephen Barton, a member of the local¬†militia¬†and a¬†selectman¬†who influenced his daughter’s patriotism and humanitarianism.¬†Barton’s mother was Sarah Stone Barton.

When Clara was only three years old, she was sent to school with her brother Stephen, where she reportedly excelled in reading and spelling. At school, she became close friends with Nancy Fitts. Barton was very timid as a child and Fitts was her only known childhood friend.

When Barton was ten years old in 1832, she nursed her brother David for two years after he fell off the roof of a barn and sustained a severe head injury. During this time caring for her brother, she learned how to deliver prescription medications and perform the practice of bloodletting, in which blood was removed from the patient by leeches attached to the skin. Under her care, her brother David eventually made a complete recovery.

Barton’s parents tried to encourage her to become more outgoing by enrolling her in Colonel Stones High School; but Barton only became more timid and depressed and refused to eat. She was eventually brought back home in order to regain her health.

Upon returning home, Barton’s family relocated to help the widow of Barton’s cousin, who had been left to manage four children and a farm after her husband’s death. Barton performed maintenance and repair work on the new home in which her family would live.¬†After completion of this work, Barton reportedly became concerned about becoming a burden to her family.¬†As a result, she began to spend more time with her male cousins, by participating in their activities. When Barton injured herself while horseback riding, her mother decided she should focus on developing more traditionally feminine skills and invited a female cousin to help develop Barton’s femininity.

To assist Barton in overcoming her shyness, her parents next encouraged her to become a schoolteacher.  She studied at the Clinton Liberal Institute in Clinton, New York and received her first teaching certificate in 1839, at age 17. Barton then led an effective redistricting campaign which allowed the children of local workers to receive an education.

Barton formally became an educator in 1838 and served for 11 years in schools in Canada and West Georgia. Barton fared well as a teacher because she knew how to handle children. She was particularly adept at handling the boy students since as a child she had enjoyed her male cousins’ and brothers’ company.

After her mother’s death in 1851, the Barton family home closed down. Barton decided to return the The Clinton Liberal Institute to further her education by pursuing advanced studies in writing and languages.

She developed a friendship with principal of the institute who recognized her tremendous abilities and admired her work. This friendship would last for many years and eventually turn into a romance.  As a writer, her terminology was pristine and easy to understand. Her writings and bodies of work were utilized to instruct local statesmen.

In 1852, Barton was contracted to open a¬†free school¬†in Bordentown, the first ever free school in New Jersey. ¬†This engagement proved so successful, she hired another woman to work with her to help teach over 600 people. Both women were making only $250 a year. This accomplishment compelled the towns people to raise nearly $4,000 for a new school building. However, once the new school building was completed, the school board replaced her as principal with a man. Apparently, they viewed the position as head of a large education institution to be unfitting for a woman. She was instead demoted to “female assistant” and worked in a harsh environment until she developed several serious health ailments and finally suffered a nervous breakdown before quitting.

In 1855, she moved to Washington, DC to begin work as a clerk in the¬†U.S. Patent Office. This was the first time a woman had ever received a substantial clerkship in the federal government at a salary equivalent to a man’s salary. Subsequently, under political opposition to women working in government offices, her position was reduced to that of copyist; and under the administration of¬†James Buchanan in 1858, she was fired because of her “Black Republicanism.”

On April 19, 1861, the Baltimore Riot resulted in the first bloodshed of the American Civil War. The victims, all members of the 6th Massachusetts Militia, were transported after the violence to the unfinished Capitol Building in Washington, DC. where Barton had been living at that time. Wanting to serve her country, Barton went to the railroad station as casualties arrived and nursed 40 men. Barton provided crucial & personal assistance to these men in uniform, many of whom were severely wounded, hungry and without any supplies other than whatever they carried on their backs. She personally transported supplies to the building to help the soldiers.

Barton, along with several other women, personally brought food, clothing and medical supplies to the sick and wounded soldiers. During this time, she learned how to store and distribute medical supplies while offering emotional support to the soldiers by keeping their spirits high. She read books to them and aided them in writing letters to their families.

It was on that day she identified herself with army work and began her efforts towards collecting medical supplies for 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 1862, despite opposition in the War Department and among field surgeons. The Ladies’ Aid Society¬†helped by sending bandages, food and clothing that would later be distributed during the Civil War. In August 1862, Barton finally gained permission from Quartermaster Daniel Rucker to help treat injured soldiers on the front lines.

After the First Battle of Bull Run, Barton placed an ad in a Massachusetts newspaper for supplies and the response was a profound influx of supplies. She continued to work to distributing stores, cleaning field hospitals, applying dressings and serving food to wounded soldiers in close proximity to several battles, including Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam and Fredericksburg. Barton helped and treated both Union and Confederate soldiers.

Once while speaking of her commitment to being a nurse during the war after experiencing battle, Clara said, ‚ÄúI shall remain here while anyone remains, and do whatever comes to my hand. I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while our soldiers can stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them.‚ÄĚ

In 1864, she was appointed by Union General¬†Benjamin Butler¬†as the “lady in charge” of all the hospitals at the front of the¬†Army of the James. Among her more harrowing wartime experiences was an incident in which a bullet tore through the sleeve of her dress without striking her and killed a man next to her she was tending. She eventually became known as the “Florence Nightingale¬†of America.” ¬†She was also known as the “Angel of the Battlefield”

After the end of the American Civil War, Barton discovered thousands of letters from distraught relatives of soldiers to the War Department had gone unanswered because the soldiers they were asking about were buried in unmarked graves. Many of these soldiers had been classified as “missing.” Motivated to do something about this situation, Barton contacted President Lincoln in hopes she would be allowed to respond officially to all of the unanswered inquiries. Lincoln gave her permission, and the campaign known as “The Search for the Missing Men” commenced.

After the end of the war, Barton ran the Office of Missing Soldiers, at 437 ¬Ĺ Seventh Street,¬†Northwest, Washington, D.C., in the¬†Gallery Place¬†neighborhood.¬†The office’s purpose was to find or identify soldiers killed or¬†missing in action.¬†Barton and her assistants wrote 41,855 replies to inquiries and helped locate more than 22,000 missing men. Barton spent the summer of 1865 helping find, identify, and properly bury 13,000 individuals who died in¬†Andersonville prison camp, a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp in¬†Georgia.¬†She continued this task during the next four years, burying 20,000 more Union soldiers and marking their graves.¬†Congress eventually appropriated $15,000 toward her project.

Clara Barton also achieved widespread recognition delivering lectures around the country about her war experiences from 1865 to 1868. She also became acquainted with¬†Frederick Douglass¬†and became an activist for¬†civil rights. After her countrywide speaking tour she was both mentally and physically exhausted. Doctor’s orders required her to go somewhere far away from her current work. She closed the Missing Soldiers Office in 1868 and traveled to Europe. In 1869, during her trip to¬†Geneva,¬†Switzerland, Barton was introduced to the¬†Red Cross¬†and¬†Dr. Appia; who would later would invite her to become the representative for the American branch of the Red Cross. He also helped her to find financial benefactors for the start of the American Red Cross.

When Barton returned to the United States, she began a movement to gain recognition for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) by the United States government. In 1873, she began to work on this project. In 1878, she met with President Rutherford B. Hayes, who expressed the opinion of most Americans at that time which was the U.S. should never again face a calamity like the Civil War. 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 apartment in Washington, DC, May 21, 1881.

However, the society’s role changed with the advent of the¬†Spanish‚ÄďAmerican War¬†during which it aided refugees and prisoners of the civil war. Once the Spanish‚ÄďAmerican War ended, the grateful people of Santiago built a statue in honor of Barton in the town square, where it still stands today.

Within days after the Johnstown Flood in 1889, Barton led a delegation of 50 doctors and nurses in response and founding what would later become the Conemaugh Health System. After resigning her position at the American Red Cross, Barton next founded the National First Aid Society.

Although not formally a member of the¬†Universalist Church of America,¬†in a 1905 letter to the widow of Carl Norman Thrasher, Barton identified herself with her parents’ church as a “Universalist.”

She continued to live in her Glen Echo, Maryland home which also served as the Red Cross Headquarters upon her arrival at the house in 1897. Barton published her autobiography in 1908, entitled The Story of My Childhood. On April 12, 1912, she died in her home at the age of 90. The cause of death was pneumonia.✪


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