HERstory: Clara Barton's Heroic Story Starts Long Before Founding The Red Cross
Our history is filled with stories of groundbreaking, inspirational, and daring women. Women who were persistent or even audacious enough to define what success looked like—no matter the obstacles, no matter the time period. Popular culture and history books don’t always honor these women or tell their stories correctly or fully—and that’s where HERdacity comes in. Our aim is to highlight these women to illustrate how far a bit of daring can take you if you have the audacity to define success for yourself. Go ahead, read it, take it in and see how it fits with your own daring.
What are you waiting for?
Clara Barton, nicknamed the “Angel of The Battlefield,” is best known for founding the American Red Cross. But her bravery can be traced back to her early years, starting during the time she spent as a teacher.
Fighting Injustice In The Classroom
Clara’s passion for service began early in her career, working as an educator. In the 1850’s she founded two schools—one of them the first free school in New Jersey. She actually offered to teach for free, to help students who couldn’t afford tuition.
She aspired to be the director of the school, but the school board hired a man to the position instead. After that, Clara resigned and started a new challenge.
Pioneer in U.S. Government
In 1854 Clara became one of the first women to work for the U.S. government. She was hired as a recording clerk at the U.S. Patent Office and was paid $1400 a year, the same as her male colleagues. But her position wouldn’t be secure for long.
Clara was demoted to a ‘copyist’ at a lower salary and eventually let go due to political opposition of women working in government offices. She ended up being rehired as a copyist during the Abraham Lincoln administration—but this was also short lived. With the advance of the Civil War, Clara felt she was needed most on the battlefield.
Angel of the Battlefield
Clara first jumped to action during the Baltimore Riot in 1861. She not only assisted in helping the injured at a makeshift hospital—but she also wrote to friends urging them to help—creating a volunteer supply network.
Throughout the war Clara coordinated supplies, set up relief hospitals, and tended to the wounded.
Clara often put herself in the line of fire to save others. During one battle, a bullet was shot right through her dress sleeve—killing the man she was trying to save.
In 1865 Clara set up Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army—using her own funds and the assistance of volunteers to help soldiers reunite with their families.
Founding the American Red Cross
After the war Clara suffered from exhaustion, and doctors urged her to travel to Europe to recuperate. It was there she met officials who had recently organized the International branch of the Red Cross. Upon returning to the United States, Clara began working to establish the American Society of the Red Cross—meeting with President Hayes. In May of 1881, the American Association of the Red Cross was formed.
Clara was elected president of the organization one month later.
Read about our last daring woman in HERstory here.
Who should we feature for our next HERstory article? Let us know in the comment section below...
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