Clara Barton Biography

Clara Barton

Founder of the American Red Cross
Born: 1821

Clara Barton taught school in her native Massachusetts before moving to Washington, DC, in 1854 to work as a clerk in the U.S. Patent Office. Almost from the start of the Civil War, Barton was involved in war efforts. She transported supplies to battlefields—including at Antietam, where a bullet passed through her sleeve—and was instrumental in setting up field hospitals. Under President Lincoln, she directed a four-year search for missing soldiers. After the war, she lectured widely on her experiences, sharing the stage with such luminaries as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, and Mark Twain. Barton was also an outspoken advocate of African-American rights and woman suffrage.

While in Europe in 1869, Barton was introduced to Dr. Louis Appia, a founder of the International Red Cross (IRC). The following year, the Franco-Prussian War broke out, and the IRC sponsored Barton to organize relief work in France. After her return to the United States, Barton dedicated herself to gaining support for an American Red Cross; as a result of her efforts, the organization was founded in 1881. Barton served as its president for the next twenty-three years, traveling to coordinate disaster relief nationwide and as well as in Russia, Armenia, Cuba, and other foreign lands.

See also Encyclopedia: Clara Barton.

Died: 1912