Founder Clara Barton
Learn About the Remarkable Woman Who Led the American Red Cross
for Our First 23 Years
Portrait of Clara Barton from the 1860s or 1870s.
Clara Barton was born on December 25, 1821, in this home in Oxford, Massachusetts
Clara Barton’s military pass signed by U.S. Surgeon General William Hammond, allowing her to attend to the sick and wounded during the Civil War, July 11, 1862
Portrait of Clara Barton by renowned Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, circa 1865
Portrait of Clara Barton in 1881, the year she established the American Red Cross. She was 60 years old
Invitation sent by Clara Barton to a meeting to discuss establishing a Red Cross chapter in the United States, 1881
An early appeal for donations for disaster relief, signed by Clara Barton and her committee, including Frederick Douglass, 1882
Clara Barton’s headquarters during the Johnstown, PA flood response, 1889
Clara Barton attending a graduation ceremony at the nursing school of Blockley Hospital in Philadelphia, 1902
Clara Barton’s gravesite in Oxford, Massachusetts, which includes a red granite cross
Highlights of an Extraordinary Life
Clara Barton was working in the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, DC when the Civil War began. Like many women, she helped collect bandages and other much-needed supplies, but she soon realized that she could best support the troops by going in person to the battlefields. Throughout many major battles of the war, she nursed, comforted and cooked for the wounded, earning the nickname the “Angel of the Battlefield.”
When her service to the Union soldiers was complete, Barton traveled to Europe. There, she became aware of the Geneva, Switzerland-based Red Cross, which called for international agreements to protect the sick and wounded during wartime and for the formation of national societies to give aid voluntarily on a neutral basis.
Upon her return home, Barton was determined that the United States should participate in the global Red Cross network. Working with influential friends and contacts such as Frederick Douglass, she founded the American Red Cross in 1881. Barton served as president of the organization until 1904, when she resigned at age 83.
Clara Barton died on April 12, 1912, at her home in Glen Echo, Maryland. Her legacy to the nation—service to humanity—is reflected in the services provided daily by the employees and volunteers of the American Red Cross.
Proud of Our History But Focused on the FutureToday, the Red Cross is preparing to meet the next crisis head on. Now that you’ve learned about our history, please consider joining our efforts.
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