Highlights of an Extraordinary Life
Born December 25, 1821, in North Oxford, Massachusetts, Clara Barton was the fifth child of Stephen and Sarah Barton. After an early career in teaching, Clara moved to Washington, D.C., and worked at the U.S. Patent Office. She was one of the first women to work for the federal government.
Angel of the Battlefield
Clara was still living in Washington when the American Civil War began in 1861. During that time, she bravely provided nursing care and supplies to soldiers — activities that ultimately defined her life and earned her the nickname, Angel of the Battlefield. When the war ended, Clara found new ways to help the military. With permission from President Lincoln, she opened the Office of Missing Soldiers, helping to reconnect more than 20,000 soldiers with their families.
During a trip to Switzerland in 1869, Clara learned about the Red Cross movement, a European humanitarian effort to provide neutral aid to those injured in combat. Inspired by that cause, Clara volunteered with the International Committee of the Red Cross, providing civilian relief during the Franco-Prussian War. This experience, along with her work during the Civil War, inspired Clara to bring the Red Cross movement to America.
Founding the American Red Cross
On May 21, 1881, Clara founded the American Red Cross, and by 1882, the U.S. ratified the Geneva Conventions — laws that, to this day, protect the war-wounded and civilians in conflict zones. This later resulted in a U.S. congressional charter, officially recognizing Red Cross services.
Clara Barton served as Red Cross president for 23 years, retiring in 1904. After a lifetime of service, Clara died at her home in Glen Echo, Maryland, on April 12, 1912.
To this day Clara’s legacy lives on, reflected in the spirit of Red Cross volunteers and employees. Because of one woman, Clara Barton, the American Red Cross brings help and hope across the nation and around the world.