Dorothea Dix and Clara Barton are both recognized for their remarkable humanitarian work during the Civil War (1861–1865). In nineteenth-century America, women played a subordinate role in a male-dominated society. Because of that, they had to overcome the common stereotypes that limited women's roles outside the home. For instance, prior to the war, Barton established a school but then resigned rather than work under a male principal. Dix also faced and overcame adversity before she also opened a school in 1821.
Remarkable women were needed during the hard-fought Civil War. The war was much more destructive and bloody than anyone had envisaged. The soldiers, especially wounded troops, did not usually receive the care and services they needed.
Prior to the war, Dix made a name for herself as a prison and mental-health care reformer. In 1861, she was appointed Superintendent of Female Nurses. Her authority was not well-defined, and she was not an ideal administrator. But she helped recruit thousands of women who worked as paid army nurses during the war.
Clara Barton was working in the US Patent Office when the Civil War began. During the war, she excelled at acquiring provisions and supplies for the troops and distributing them as needed. She also searched for missing soldiers and did some nursing. Although her role was not limited to nursing, she became Superintendent of Nurses in the Army of the James in 1864. After the war, she founded the American Red Cross.