Sunday, August 7, 2011

Clara Barton

The troops called her the “Angel of the Battlefield”. Clarissa Harlowe Barton considered herself to be a “relief worker”. When the Civil War began, Clara Barton was a 40-year-old clerk in the Patent Office in Washington, D.C. The daughter of Massachusetts farmers, she was largely home-schooled and tutored. From the ages of 11 to 13, she was the primary nurse for her brother, David, after a bad accident. She worked as a schoolteacher from the time she was 18, and even started her own school for the children of millworkers in Hightstown, New Jersey.

When the war began, Barton began to collect supplies and to organize comfort and relief for the troops camped around Washington and in its infirmary. She lobbied for permission to go to the field as a nurse, and then followed the troops to many battles, including Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg and the siege of Charleston, South Carolina.

In 1865, with the support of President Lincoln, she set up an office in Annapolis, Maryland, to attempt to locate the 80,000 men who were missing at the end of the war and was able to send word to 22,000 families.

Clara Barton became a powerful force in creating organized health care and opportunities for women. She had a lifelong association with the women’s suffrage movement and helped persuade the U.S. government to ratify the Geneva Treaty. More than twenty-five national and international honors for her work were awarded to her during her lifetime. She is recognized as the founder of the American Red Cross and served as its first president.

Age in 1861: 40

Learn more about Clara Barton at


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