Clarissa Harlowe "Clara" Barton (December 25, 1821 Ц April 12, 1912) was a pioneer American teacher, patent clerk, nurse, and humanitarian. At a time when relatively few women worked outside the home, Barton built a career helping others. One of her greatest accomplishments was founding the American Red Cross. This organization helps victims of war and disasters.
Clara was the youngest child of Stephen Barton, veteran of the Indian Wars in Ohio and Michigan and a selectman in Oxford, Massachusetts; and his wife, Sarah. Her siblings were Dorothy, Sally, Stephen and David.
Barton always had a passion for being a nurse. She took care of her dog when he hurt his leg. But the best example was her brother, David Barton. When Clara was 11, David was fixing the barn roof and fell off. The doctor said that he would die in time. But young Clara was determined to save him, and nursed him back to health.
Early professional life
Clara Barton became a school teacher in 1838 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 by pursuing writing and languages at the Clinton Liberal Institute in New York. Following these studies, Barton opened a free school in New Jersey. The attendance under her leadership grew to 603, but instead of hiring Barton to head the school, the board hired a man. Frustrated, in 1855 she moved to Washington D.C. and began work as a clerk in the US Patent Office; this was the first time a woman had received a substantial clerkship in the federal government and at a salary equal to a man's salary. Subsequently, under political opposition to women working in government offices, her position was reduced to that of copyist, and in 1856, under the administration of James Buchanan, eliminated entirely. After the election of Abraham Lincoln, having li
ed with relatives and friends in Massachusetts for three years, she returned to work at the patent office in the autumn of 1861, now as temporary copyist, in the hope she could pioneer to make way for more women in government service. She was probably the first woman to hold a government job.
In 1864 she was appointed by Union General Benjamin Butler as the "lady in charge" of the hospitals at the front of the Army of the James. 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. She is known as the "Angel of the Battlefield."
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 and began a long association with the woman's suffrage movement. She also became acquainted with Frederick Douglass and became an activist for black civil rights. In 1869, during her trip to Geneva, Switzerland, Barton was introduced to the Red Cross and Henry Dunant's book A Memory of Solferino, which called for the formation of national societies to provide relief voluntarily on a neutral basis.
At the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War, in 1870, she assisted the grand duchess of Baden in the preparation of military hospitals, and gave the Red Cross society much aid during the war. At the joint request of the German authorities and the Strasbourg Comite de Secours, she superintended the supplying of work to the poor of Strasbourg in 1871, after the Siege of Paris, and in 1871 had charge of the public distribution of supplies to the destitute people of Paris. At the close of the war she was decorated with the golden cross of Baden and the iron cross of Germany.