Chapter History

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Our History

The American Red Cross formed its Massachusetts Branch in Boston in 1905, electing William Bradford as chairman. The organization quickly evolved into community-based divisions and then single and multi-community serving chapters. The Boston Metropolitan Chapter of the American Red Cross was chartered in 1915 and served the Greater Boston community.

Notable in the early years of the chapter were its responses to national and international disasters such as earthquakes in San Francisco and Italy and the ship explosion in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Boston Red Cross sent a relief train to Halifax and to this day, the annual holiday tree at the Prudential Center is a thank you gift from the people of Nova Scotia to the people of Boston!

The First World War saw the Red Cross take on major roles to support the injured and displaced and promote the humane treatment of those affected by war. In Boston during the summer of 1918, Red Cross volunteers knitted some 90,000 pairs of socks and Red Cross nurses treated soldiers recovering from their injuries at places like Fort Devens.

The fall of 1918 in Boston was also the highpoint of the influenza epidemic. Red Cross volunteers helped treat the sick and the dying. By the end of September 1918, Boston had lost more than 1000 citizens to the flu.

In 1919, Red Cross ambulances came to the aid of Molasses Disaster victims in the North End. The Motor Corps volunteers, all women, dressed in their uniform knee-high boots, were uniquely suited to wade through the mess, and provide canteen service, bringing rescue workers more than ninety gallons of coffee and hundreds of donuts and rolls all through the night.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the Boston Red Cross built upon its trademark programs and responded to the needs of the community as the Depression took hold.

It continues to respond to the needs of the community today, and will be here tomorrow. The American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts provides services across 181 cities and towns in eastern Massachusetts with a combined population of 4.9 million. Our mission to alleviate suffering extends beyond disaster services, the largest food pantries in New England, reuniting familes torn by international strife and serving our soldiers. With our nurses aid programs, babysitting classes, lifeguard courses and preparedness training, we are teaching the next generation of Red Crossers who will serve well into the 22nd century.

  • 1881
    Oxford native Clara Barton holds the first meeting of the American Red Cross.
  • 1895
    American Red Cross Berkshire County Chapter, located in Pittsfield, is founded.
  • 1905
    Massachusetts Chapter founded; William Bradford is elected Chairman.
  • 1906
    Pioneer Valley Chapter was founded.
  • 1909
    American Red Cross of Central Massachusetts is founded.
  • 1915
    The Boston Metropolitan and the Cape Cod and Islands chapters of the American Red Cross were chartered.
  • 1917
    The Boston Red Cross sent a relief train to Halifax, Nova Scotia after a cargo ship explosion.
  • 1918
    Red Cross volunteers knitted some 90,000 pairs of socks and Red Cross nurses treated soldiers recovering from their injuries at places like Fort Devens
  • 1919
    Red Cross ambulances came to the aid of Molasses Disaster victims in the North End of Boston.
  • 1923
    Greater Westfield Chapter was initially chartered.
  • 1933
    The Northeast Chapter of the American Red Cross was chartered.
  • 1942
    Red Cross responds to fire at Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Boston that claimed 494 lives.
  • 1953
    A tornado kills 94 over a stretch of 48 miles in Central Massachusetts, and the Red Cross becomes part of Greater Worcester’s recovery.
  • 1981
    Red Cross sets up a number of disaster centers and shelters after the Great Lynn Fire.
  • 1992
    First National Testing Laboratory, applying standardized tests to ensure safety of Red Cross blood products, opened in Dedham.
  • 2011
    Six Red Cross shelters open to house victims of the Springfield Tornado outbreak.
  • 2013
    More than 300 American Red Cross volunteers responded to the Boston Marathon Bombing.