Born on Christmas Day in 1821, Clara Barton was a teacher, nurse, and leader. She was the founder of the Red Cross.
- Clara was born in Oxford, Massachusetts. She was the youngest of five children born to Stephen and Sarah Barton.
- As a teenager, Clara nursed her seriously ill brother, David.
- Later, she decided to become a teacher. She started teaching when she was 18 and organized a school for the children of the workers in her brother’s mill when she was 24.
- In 1852, Clara moved to New Jersey to start the first free school there. She resigned from her position when she learned the school had hired a man for twice her salary. She refused to work for less than a man.
- In 1854, she was the first woman hired as a recording clerk in the patent office in Washington D.C. She earned $1,400 a year, the same salary as a man.
- The next year, her salary was reduced by Robert McClellan, Secretary of the Interior, because he did not approve of women working in government. The year after, she lost her position, but regained it when Abraham Lincoln was elected president.
- She quit her job in 1861 to aid soldiers in the Civil War. In 1862, she received permission to transport supplies to Union Soldiers. She was at every major battle in Maryland, South Carolina, and Virginia. She brought medical supplies, clothing, and food, and also cared for the wounded. She was called “The Angel of the Battlefield.”
- She had no formal medical training, but a brave heart and a cool head. She was named head nurse by General Benjamin Butler.
- She worked with Frances Gage to help slaves prepare for freedom, giving them advice on money, education, and work opportunities.
- When the war ended, she testified in Congress about her war experiences. She also helped mark thousands of graves.
- While traveling in Europe, she learned about the International Red Cross and worked to bring a chapter to the United States. In 1881, she became president of the first American chapter of the Red Cross.
- In 1904, she organized the National First Aid Association of America, which worked to help citizens learn first aid and emergency preparedness.
Resign: to formally leave a position
Testify: to report
Questions and Answers
Question: Did Clara ever marry or have children?
Answer: Clara was devoted to her family, but she never married or had children. She was extremely shy. Clara died when she was 90 years old.
Watch a video about Clara Barton.