Clarissa Harlow e Barton was born December 25, 1821, in North Oxford, Massachusetts. Her father, Captain Stephen Barton, was a farmer, horse breeder, and respected member of the community. Her mother, Sarah, managed the household and taught Barton the importance of cleanliness. Barton was the youngest of five children, and her two brothers and two sisters assumed much of the responsibility for her education. Her sister, Dorothy, taught her spelling, Stephen taught her arithmetic, Sally taught her geography, and David coached her in athletics. With their help, Barton received a vast and diverse education.

By the time she started school at age 4, Barton could already spell three-syllable words. She found school to be quite easy and studied such subjects as philosophy, chemistry, and Latin. Barton's only problem was her extreme shyness. At 17, Barton became a teacher in Massachusetts's District 9, located in Worcester County. During the next 6 years, she taught in several schools, before establishing her own school in North Oxford. At the age of 29, after teaching for more than 10 years, Barton yearned for a change.

As a result, she entered the Liberal Institute in Clinton, New York, an advanced school for female teachers. Among her other studies, Barton worked on her writing and took private classes in French. After a year in Clinton, Barton accepted a teaching position in New Jersey. She subsequently opened a free school in Bordentown, and the school's attendance grew to more than 600 students. When the school board refused to offer Barton the principal position to head the school and hired a man instead, she found herself at a crossroads. Following a period of physical and emotional exhaustion, Barton moved to Washington DC, where she worked as a clerk in the U. S Patent Office.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Barton resigned from the Patent Office to work as a volunteer. She begged everyone she knew for food and clothing. When she filled her small apartment with supplies she would rent warehouse space to fit more. She would visit army camps and pass out gifts to soldiers, including tobacco, which she thought was the devil, to help keep spirits high.

She fought for her right to go to the front to help out with medical supplies and nursing. The Battle of Cedar Mountain was the first time she gave first aid to the wounded. The ones who were very sick received bread soaked in wine. She cooked soup and applesauce for some and passed out free t-shirts she had collected.

Greatful for these comforts, the men gave her the nickname, "Angel of the Battlefield". While back in Washington, Barton heard that the Union had suffered a defeat. At daybreak, her and two other women packed supplies on a freight cart and made the journey to the second Battle of Bull Run. They had boxes of bandages, drugs, coffee, brandy, cans of soup, juices and crackers. At nighttime, the three women would move from one man to another, wrapping blankets around them and giving them small amounts of food. A few days before the Battle of Antietam, Clara learned where the fighting would be.

She left Washington with a string of mules and a wagon with four men escorting her. The cart was pilled high with supplies. She caught up with some of the wounded and gave them bread she had bought on the way. She knew she was on a battlefield as her wagon rolled over the dead. While they were stopped, she noticed that in the army supply wagons, the ammunition came first, then food, then medical supplies.

That night she made her party get up at one in the morning and take a short cut to get ahead of the army wagons. She followed the sound of the cannon as stray bullets flew over her head to make it to a hospital to help the wounded. Because she had left earlier than the armies supply wagons, she was able to make it, and the army lines were stuck until the battle was over in fear of getting caught. During the years following the war, Barton lectured about her war experiences, continued her work at the Office of Correspondence, and worked with the suffragist movement. However, by 1869, Barton had worked herself into a physical breakdown.

She followed her doctor's orders and traveled to Europe to rest and regain her health. It was during this trip that Barton learned about the Treaty of Geneva, which provided relief for sick and wounded soldiers. Twelve nations had signed the treaty, but the United States had refused. Barton vowed to look into the matter.

During this time, Barton also learned about the Red Cross. She observed the organization in action while traveling with several volunteers to the front of the Franco-Prussian War. When Barton returned to the United States in 1873, she began her crusade for the Treaty of Geneva and the Red Cross. After spending time at a spa in Danville, New York to improve her health, Barton moved to Washington DC to lobby for her causes. Due to her efforts, the United States signed the Geneva Agreement in 1882. In addition, the American Red Cross organization was formed in 1881, and Barton served as its first president.

With new Red Cross chapters opening in other states, President Barton could step back a little from expending all her efforts in advertising for the organization and building up its membership. At the request of Governor Benjamin F. Butler (former Civil War general), she fulfilled a temporary position as superintendent at the Woman's Reformatory Prison of Massachusetts in Sherborn, beginning in May 1883. For more than six months Clara oversaw the activities at this institution and made suggestions for improvements. Though she had little personal contact with the prisoners, with her dignity, poise, and personal magnetism she served as an inspiration to them. Returning to the Red Cross in February 1884, Clara assisted the flood victims of the Ohio River, then the Mississippi River.

In September, she attended the Third International Conference of the Red Cross in Geneva as the first female diplomat to represent the United States. The conference voted to adopt the principles Clara had instituted in the American Red Cross; the international organization also would serve during peacetime to assist victims of natural and manmade disasters. Following the Conference, Clara received the Augusta Medal by Empress Augusta of Baden (Germany) for her outstanding humanitarian work. In the subsequent years of the 1880's, victims of fires, an earthquake, drought, tornado, flood, and a yellow fever epidemic received aid and assistance from the Red Cross. Clara learned the importance of educating victims to look after themselves and to take precautions, so that they would be able to rebuild their homes and lives again after Red Cross workers had left. Barton remained Red Cross president until 1904.

During her tenure, she headed up relief work for disasters such as famines, floods, pestilence, and earthquakes in the United States and throughout the world. The last operation she personally directed was relief for victims of the Galveston, Texas flood in 1900. In addition, she served as an emissary of the Red Cross and addressed several International Conferences. In 1904, Barton was forced to resign her position as president. She experienced increasing criticism of her leadership style, and many felt it was time for the organization to be led by a larger, central administration. On May 12, Barton resigned.

For the next 8 years, she lived in her home at Glen Echo, Maryland. Barton enjoyed good health and remained quite active, riding her horse and keeping abreast of current events. Clara Barton died on April 12, 1912, from complications of a cold. The mission of her life can be summed up in her own words, "You must never so much as think whether you like it or not, whether it is bearable or not; you must never think of anything except the need, and how to meet it". Social workers of today could learn so much from Clara Barton's contributions. She, basically alone, became the savoir for many people.

She helped during wartime more than many people. She brought one of the largest non-profit organizations in the world to the United States, the Red Cross. One of the most important parts of the Red Cross today is teaching people how to take care of themselves. Clara came up with the idea of teaching people how to do this. The concept of teaching first aid in the home would later be realized in the formation of first aid classes. People could also learn about how to put enough pressure on the government to sign treaties that will help the world.

She lobbied in Washington D.C. and was able to convince the US government to sign the Treaty of Geneva. She would have been very helpful when the United States did not sign the treaty to limit pollution a few years ago. This upset a lot of people, and maybe if Barton was alive she could have convinced the US to sign. Clara Barton would have been the perfect person to have around when the 9/11 incident happened. Back during the Civil War, Clara risked her own life going onto the battlefield to aid wounded soldiers. If she was at the World Trade Centers, she would have been one of the people to go inside the buildings and help save people.

She would have risked her own life to help others during that morning. Barton would have been at as many local hospitals as possible making the living feel better and help consoling the families of lost ones. If she were around today she probably would have set up different charities to help those who have lost family members, especially those who earned the majority of the families income. She would have set up group meetings to talk about their loved ones to help the pain go away. Clara Barton helped many people during her life. She was a great contribute to society and social workers of today.

With her efforts, millions of people's lives have changed. The American Red Cross was probably her biggest accomplishment in today's eyes as it still runs strong daily giving aid to as many people as possible.


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Clara Barton Professional Angel. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press. Oates, S.B. (1994).