Clarissa “Clara” Harlowe Barton was an educator, suffragist, and nurse who founded the American Red Cross in 1881. She was a hospital nurse in the American Civil war and worked in the US Patent Office.
Barton was born on December 25, 1821, in North Oxford, Massachusetts and was the youngest of six children. Her father, Captain Stephen Barton, was a member of the local militia and a selectman. Barton supplemented her early education with practical experience.
When she was ten years old, she assigned herself the task of nursing her brother David back to health after he fell from a roof and received a severe injury.
She became a teacher in 1839, at only seventeen years old. This profession motivated her to conduct an effective redistricting campaign that allowed the children of workers to receive an education. These projects gave Barton the confidence needed when she demanded equal pay for teaching.
When the Civil War broke out, Barton was one of the first volunteers to appear at the Washington Infirmary and help the wounded soldiers. In 1862, she gained permission from Quartermaster Daniel Rucker to work on the front lines.
Barton organized relief for the wounded, often bringing her own supplies to front lines. There were a lot of people who supported her because they believed in her cause. These people became her patrons, her most supportive being Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts.
According to Wikipedia, she was known as the “Angel of Battlefield.” 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.
In 1864, Barton was appointed as the “lady in charge” of the hospitals at the front of the Army by Union General Benjamin Butler.
After the end of the American Civil War, Barton worked for the War Department. She contacted President Lincoln in hopes that she would be allowed to help reunite missing soldiers and their families or find out more about those who were missing.
She was given the permission, and the search for the missing men commenced.
During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, Barton visited Europe and worked with a relief organization known as the International Red Cross.
Inspired by her experience in Europe, after many efforts, in 1881 Barton officially founded the American Red Cross. She continued to live in her Glen Echo, Maryland home which also served as the Red Cross Headquarters.
Barton died in her home at the age of 90 on April 12, 1912.