Clara Barton

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Clarissa Harlowe "Clara" Barton (December 25, 1821 – April 12, 1912) was a pioneer American teacher, nurse, and humanitarian. She is best remembered for organizing the American Red Cross.


Youth, education, and family nursing

Clarissa Harlowe Barton was born on December 25, 1821, in Oxford, Massachusetts, to Stephen and Sarah Barton. She was the youngest of five children. Clara's father was a farmer and horse breeder (who also served as a captain in the French and Indian Wars), while her mother Sarah managed the household. The two later helped found the first Universalist Church in Oxford.

When Clara was eleven, her brother David became her first patient after he fell from a rafter in their unfinished barn. Clara stayed at his side for three years and learned to administer all his medicines, including the "great, loathsome crawling leeches".

As she continued to develop an interest in nursing, Clara may have drawn inspiration from stories of her great-aunt, Martha Ballard, who served the town of Hallowell (later Augusta), Maine, as a midwife for over three decades. Ballard helped deliver nearly one thousand infants between 1777 and 1812, and in many cases administered medical care in much the same way as a formally trained doctor of her era.[1]

On his death bed, Clara's father gave her advice that she would later recall:

American Civil War

On April 21, 1861, nine days after the start of the Civil War, Barton tended to wounded Massachusetts soldiers quartered in the U.S. Senate chamber in Washington.[2][3] Then after the First Battle of Bull Run, July 21, Barton established the main agency to obtain and distribute supplies to wounded soldiers. She was given a pass by General William Hammond to ride in army ambulances to provide comfort to the soldiers and nurse them back to health and lobbied the U.S. Army bureaucracy, at first without success, to bring her own medical supplies to the battlefields. Finally, on August 3, 1862,[2] she obtained permission to travel to the front lines, eventually reaching some of the grimmest battlefields of the war and serving during the Siege of Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia. 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.

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