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Angel of the Battlefield

Red Cross Flag
She was tending to the wounded when a bullet ripped through the sleeve of her dress.

As we come out of African-American History Month, we have now entered not only Women’s History Month, but also Red Cross Month. It is a coincidence that these months of recognition occur at the same time, but the blood and thread have been woven long before both were recognized, by Miss Clarissa ‘Clara’ Barton.
Barton, an extremely shy child, was born in 1821 in Massachusetts and was the founder of the American Red Cross. She started her career in the 1830’s after excelling in school and became a prominent educator. Barton played with many boys in her family growing up and this led her to be reveled for working well with energetic and problematic boys in primary schools. Her students grew to adore her.
She founded two schools; one of them being the first free school in New Jersey. She would have been elected principle of the free school (being the first woman in America to be in this position), but the board of directors hired a man instead. Discontent, she left and in 1855 she was hired by the US Patents office, becoming the first woman to hold a position this high in the US government. This also was the first time a woman made the same salary as a man in a similar position. Under the Buchanan administration however, her position was eliminated as women’s positions in the government faced renewed opposition. Barton could not be stifled though.
At the onset of the newborn nation’s grimmest moment, the Civil War, Barton was a monumental cornerstone. She caught and helped the falling Union with nursing, training, and medical supplies distribution; what now is known as medical logistics. She was hired back into the government with the election of Lincoln in 1860. Lincoln’s appointed commanding generals for the Union were swapped out four times within the first two years of the war due to mismanagement. But Barton held strong through the entirety of the war, serving in a multitude of positions, and always going to where she was needed most.
She coordinated supplies, set up relief hospitals, tended to the enemy’s wounded, and was placed in charge of diet and nutrition at the relief hospitals. Barton worked for five years straight with hardly any financial compensation in positions she had no prior experience. At her persistent demands, she was given official permission to bring in supplies and nurse alongside her male counterparts in field hospitals where major battles were occurring. At the battle of Antietam, she was tending to the wounded when a bullet ripped through the sleeve of her dress. In the same hospital, after reluctantly giving in to a wounded man’s insistence, she saved his life by extracting a bullet from his cheek with her pocketknife. This is where she received the nickname, “Angel of the Battlefield.”
When the war was over, and many others stopped providing assistance, she went on to help set up the Office of Correspondence with Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army. By 1869, after having corresponded to 63,182 letters, she located 22,000 missing men from the war. In 1881, she founded the American branch of the Red Cross.
Barton’s experience in the classroom, battlefield, and logistics, led to the culmination of what would later be the fundamental principles of the Red Cross.  Although not very religious, she was convinced it was her obligation as a human to aide others without discrimination. Not only this, but that these efforts would be voluntary services, with no desire for financial or any other gain.   To this day the Red Cross has helped millions before, during, and after numerous catastrophe’s, large and small. The beginnings of what would become one of the world’s leading humanitarian organizations arose from, not a man, but a shy woman derailed countless times by men. She may have lost some battles, but she didn’t lose the war.