Most people know Clara Barton as the founder of the Red Cross. Clarissa Harlowe Barton, her given name, was born December 25, 1821 in North Oxford, Massachusetts. At the age of three she was sent to school with her brother and quickly became proficient in reading and spelling.
She was a very shy child, which hindered her from making friends except one, Nancy Fitts, who remained her friend throughout childhood. When she was ten her brother fell from the roof of a barn and sustained a head injury. She gave herself the task of nursing him back to health during his recovery.
She learned everything she could about how to care for him, including correctly distributing his medications and applying leeches to bleed him (which was a common practice at the time). She continued to care for him even after the doctors said there was no hope. He eventually made a full recovery.
She remained painfully shy throughout her childhood and eventually her parents encouraged her to become a schoolteacher, which she achieved in 1839 when she received her certification at the age of 17. She taught for 12 years in Canada and West Georgia and learned how to handle hyperactive and wild children, especially the boys since she grew up playing with her male cousins.
In 1855 she moved to Washington, D.C. and began working as a clerk in the U.S. Patent Office, but because of backlash and scrutiny from the males she was demoted to copyist and eventually fired in 1856 under James Buchanan. But after Abraham Lincoln took office in 1861, she returned to the patent office as a copyist.
Civil War Aid
The Baltimore Riot on April 19, 1861 saw the first bloodshed of the American Civil War. The wounded of the Massachusetts regiment were moved to Washington, D.C., where Barton met them at the train station and nursed 40 men. This led her to personally help care for them by taking supplies, food and clothing to the wounded men, many of whom she recognized from childhood and her years as an educator.
She learned how to care for them, correctly distribute their medications and medical supplies as well as emotional support as they recovered. She also read them books, helped them write letters to their families and just talked to them to keep their spirits up.
A Love for Helping Others
It was during this time that Clara realized her love for attending and caring for people. She and several other women continued to care for these men despite being met with resistance. It wasn’t until August 1862 that Barton received permission from Quartermaster Daniel Rucker to work on the front lines. For the next several years she gained respect an admiration by caring for both Union and Confederate soldiers.
She became known as the “Florence Nightingale of America” as well as the “Angel of the Battlefield” when she aided the overwhelmed surgeon on duty after the battle of Cedar Mountain in August 1862. In 1864, Union General Benjamin Butler, named her the “lady in charge” of the hospitals on the front line.
No Longer Shy
The once painfully shy Barton gained widespread recognition when she began giving lectures about her time and experiences during the war. During her trip to Geneva, Switzerland in 1869, Barton was introduced to Dr. Appia and the Red Cross. Because of her reputation and the work she had done during the war, Dr. Appia later approached her to be the representative of the American branch of the Red Cross.
Upon her return to the United States, Barton began a movement to bring more recognition to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) by the U.S. government. President Rutherford B. Hayes did not believe the United States would ever face catastrophe like the Civil War again, so he denied her request for more recognition.
Start of the American Red Cross
It wasn’t until President Chester Arthur that she was successful with the argument that the new American Red Cross could react to other crises. She argued that the Red Cross could offer assistance to those who suffer from natural disasters such as forest fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes.
With President Arthur’s approval, she became President of the American branch of the Red Cross. It’s first official meeting was held in her own apartment in Washington, D.C. May 21, 1881. But it wasn’t until August 22, 1881 that the first local society was established. She remained president of the Red Cross until she was forced to resign in 1904 at the age of 83.
Learn more about Clara Barton with these resources!
FREE Clara Barton Lesson and Notebooking Pages | Year Round Homeschooling
FREE Clara Barton Comprehension Passage | Charlie and Company (TpT)
FREE Clara Barton Notebooking Page | Homeschool Helper Online
FREE People of the Civil War Flapbook | 123 Homeschool 4 Me
The Life Story of Clara Barton Unit with Articles, Activities & Flip Book | Heart 2 Heart Teaching (TpT)
Clara Barton Writing | Jill Richardson (TpT)
Clara Barton biography Civil War Red Cross Women’s History Civil War | Planet Doiron (TpT)
Clara Barton Unit | Silloh Curriculum (TpT)
Clara Barton Biography and Timeline Activity | Homeschooling by Heart (TpT)
Clara Barton: Biography Reading Passage: Civil War | Elementary Lesson Plans (TpT)
Clara Barton Close Read and Writing for Women’s History Month | Rainbow City Learning (TpT)
Bio Sphere – Clara Barton – Differentiated Reading, Slides & Activities | Clark Creative World (TpT)
Who Was Clara Barton?Brave Clara Barton (Step into Reading)Clara Barton: Spirit of the American Red CrossClara Barton: Courage Under FireClara Barton (Heroes of America)Clara Barton: Angel of the BattlefieldClara Barton & the American Red CrossClara and DavieCivil War on Sunday
Playing Doctor: How to Make a Cast | Mom Trusted
Clara Barton Biography Activities: 3 Hands-On Projects and Foldable Craftivities | Gravois Fare (TpT)
How to Fold a Nurse’s Hat | eHow
Emergency Preparedness for Kids and Teens | Skill Trek
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Annette has been married to her husband and best friend since 2003. Together they are raising their six children to follow the Lord’s will, no matter what. Annette longs for the day when she will meet her angel babies who have entered heaven before her. She enjoys creating UNIT STUDIES and FREE PRINTABLES for homeschool families. You can follow her crazy life at In All You Do where she blogs about homeschooling, homemaking and marriage while trying to maintain her sanity. She is also the owner of Thrifty Homeschoolers where she shares her tips on homeschooling without breaking the bank.