Who Was Clara Barton?

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Clara (Clarissa Harlowe) Barton (1821–1912), called the "Angel of the Battlefield," served as a nurse during the American Civil War (1861–65). After the war ended she founded an organization to search for missing men. Exhausted from her humanitarian efforts, Barton went to Switzerland to recover. While there, she learned of the International Red Cross, an organization that had been founded in 1863 to help the wounded during wartime. When the Franco-Prussian War broke out in 1870, Barton worked with the International Red Cross. Upon returning to the United States, she lobbied (tried to influence public officials) for an American branch of the International Red Cross. In 1881, when the first U.S. Red Cross branch was organized, Barton became its first president, a position she held until 1904. The devastating flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1889 prompted Barton to lobby for changes to the Red Cross constitution (the document containing the organization's laws). Henceforth, the organization would also respond to calamities caused by peacetime disasters, such as floods, earthquakes, and tornadoes.

Further Information: American Red Cross. Clara Barton.[Online] Available http://www.redcross.org/hec/pre1900/cbarton.html, November 6, 2000; Quackenbush, Robert M. Clara Barton and Her Victory over Fear.New York: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1995; Whitelaw, Nancy. Clara Barton: Civil War Nurse.Springfield, N.J.: Enslow, 1997.