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Women’s History Month: Clara Barton

By March 27, 2015Archives

For our last installment of our weekly Women’s History blog post, we’d like to highlight one of the true influential pioneers of women in the medical field. Of course, her achievements are not held in high esteem because of the gender barriers that surrounded her, but because her work was truly amazing. This week we feature Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross.

As a child she was timid. She didn’t speak much, nor did she interact with the children at her school. However, that didn’t stop her from excelling. At a young age, she thrived in reading and spelling and was an overall good student. She was a natural born talent, but her passion for helping others was not known until later in her life.

Her first professional career was a school teacher. She was very successful at it, especially calming down the rambunctious boys in her class. As a child, one of the few social interactions Barton enjoyed was playing with her male cousins. Due to this, she was able to relate more directly to the boys, and she gained their respect.

Later on, she opened up her own free school in New Jersey. The first one of it’s kind within the state. Under her guidance the school ballooned to over 600 students. Unfortunately, she was not asked to head the school. that position was given to a man. Discouraged she had left her school.

As the American Civil War broke out, she was able to talk to her father about the war efforts. He had convinced her that it was her duty to help out the wounded soldiers. A task she accepted. She gained support from other people who agreed with her efforts. She acquired supplies such as bandages, food, and clothing. She worked closely with the soldiers dressing their wounds, feeding them, and providing them the proper support in order to help them recover.

She was quite courageous, often times doing her work on the frontline. In one instance, she had a bullet tear through the sleeve of her dress. As a result, she was nicknamed “Angel of the Battlefield.” She was well respected by everyone. After the war, there was still much to be done. It was at this time her biggest contribution to the medical world would be given.

She continued her help after the war by starting the Office of Missing Soldiers. She helped identify those who were killed or missing in action after the war. Through her efforts over 21,000 missing men were identified and installed 13,000 grave markers for those who had fallen in battle. It was exhausting work and it wore her down. Her doctor’s told her she needed a break.

In 1869, she took a trip to Geneva, Switzerland. It was here she met Dr. Louis Appia. he introduced her to the Red Cross, and encouraged her to start her own in America. She took the idea and ran with it. She persuaded people that this organization was more than just a united war effort to help soldiers. It could be used for all sorts of disasters like earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes, which it did just that.

She became the first initial president of the American chapter of The Red Cross. She continued with its efforts years down the line. Her organization aided during the Spanish-American War, The Johnstown Flood, and even responded to a humanitarian issue over in the Ottoman Empire. Clara Barton was and is a hero in every sense of the word.

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