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A Volunteer’s Trip Back in Time


On this beautiful clear day in North Oxford, MA, you would never know that neighboring counties are suffering from the results of heavy flooding. Red Cross workers have been responding to floods in the area since mid-March. While working to help those affected by the floods, there was also an opportunity to take a trip to the birthplace of American Red Cross founder, Clara Barton.

Local museum manager Emily Thomas was gracious enough to set up a visit with May Olney White, the great grandniece of Clara Barton. The meeting occurred at Barton’s birthplace in North Oxford, which is located only 30 minutes from operation headquarters for the flood relief efforts in Westborough, MA.

White, affectionately known as “Ms. May” only likes to leave her house during the day, so Alice Wilkerson, a Red Cross volunteer on her 60th disaster operation, met with her and had an interesting chat. Later in the evening, the rest of the Red Cross staff took a private tour of Clara Barton’s birthplace. During Wilkerson’s visit she asked Ms. May about her childhood visit with Barton.

She shared that Barton, “Was a determined person and she knew what she wanted.”

During Wilkerson’s conversation, she also found out that Ms. May worked with the Red Cross. Her duties were “to get stuff for the office when it was needed.”

The impromptu historian relayed stories about Mary Barton, her grandmother, who traveled with Clara Barton to Europe. This was the trip where Clara Barton first discovered Henri Durant and the Red Cross. Mary Barton was only 16. When they came back she lived in Washington, D.C., with Clara Barton as she began work to start the American Red Cross.

“It is such an honor to meet Ms. May, visit Clara’s birthplace and lay flowers on her grave from the operation staff. If it weren’t for Clara, we wouldn’t be here helping her neighboring towns with the floods,” said Wilkerson.