Barbara Bovender's Red Cross Story
140 years ago, Clara Barton established the American Red Cross by engaging talented, committed, and compassionate women dedicated to saving lives. Barbara Bovender, a founding member of the Nashville Area and Tennessee Region Tiffany Circle, has exemplified Clara’s vision for women leading through philanthropy—and has served as a dedicated American Red Cross donor and volunteer since joining in 2007. As a retired nurse, the history of the American Red Cross and the legacy that Clara Barton left behind has inspired Barbara to become a servant leader and foster the growth of the Tiffany Circle, a community of women leaders who advance the American Red Cross mission through a focused investment of time, talent, and treasure by engaging and embracing women locally, nationally, and internationally. Recently, in 2022, Barbara generously supported the conservation and display of a historical textile piece; a dress worn by Clara Barton dating back to the early 1870’s.
Barbara reflected on when she first joined the Tiffany Circle, “the principles of the Red Cross resonated with me immediately having had a long career as a nurse. The Red Cross mission being focused on taking care of people in their darkest hour resonated with me then—and still does to this day.”
When she was approached about the Red Cross starting a women's philanthropic group and asked to join, she said yes without a second thought. “The Tiffany Circle took me back to how I was raised—it gave me an opportunity to give back in a truly meaningful way. And through the Red Cross, I have met some of the best friends I've ever had in my life.”
When asked why the restoration project resonated with Barbara, she shared, “This dress is a piece of history. Clara’s dress embodies the history of nursing and the history and founding of the American Red Cross. Clara Barton was an amazing role model—and was truly a woman before her time. She was a self-taught nurse and served in the American Civil War. She was a teacher and a humanitarian and a civil rights advocate. It was an honor to support the restoration and installation of this historical artifact.”
Drawn to fabrics and fashion, supporting the dress restoration was a natural fit for Barbara. “My mom, another strong woman, was a seamstress. Textiles and sewing were an integral part of our livelihood and my upbringing.” Barbara reminisced on learning to sew and sourcing fabrics with her mother. Barbara then reflected on realizing the restoration of Clara Barton’s dress, “I wish she could just see this. She would be so proud.”
The dress was installed at the American Red Cross’ National Headquarters in Washington D.C. in the Fall of 2022. “I am excited that Clara Barton’s dress is now able to be viewed by Red Cross volunteers, staff, and visitors so they can learn more about her life and the history of the Red Cross,” said Barbara.
Barbara continues to serve in leadership and advisory roles to realize continued growth for the Tiffany Circle regionally, nationally, and internationally. She shared her affinity for the collective power of women leading through philanthropy at the Red Cross. “The Tiffany Circle is a dynamic group of women who work collaboratively and tirelessly to support the mission of the Red Cross. We have organized this endeavor to advance the mission of the Red Cross, we have embraced our charge, and we've also become a sisterhood and developed sincere friendships along the way.”
To learn more about this incredible piece of history and its restoration made possible by Barbara, please watch this wonderful video which shares the process followed to preserve and display the dress.