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Who is Clara Barton?

Updated on December 6, 2016

The American Red Cross

The year was 1861in a war-torn America. This was the setting for the war between the states. The men and women of both sides fought and suffered bravely for what they believed to be right.

You can feel proud of the great and noble figures who rose above it, like Clara Barton who helped relieve some of the suffering in the war.

The Organization

The Red Cross works to relieve human suffering. More than 120 nations have it. Each national society carries its own program but the workers in all parts of the world are united in their aims. They try to prevent misery in war or peace time and serve all peoples, regardless of race, nationality, or religion. The name comes from the organization's flag, a red cross on a white background. The flag honors Switzerland.


Jean Henri Dunant, a Swiss philanthropist, was touring Italy in 1859 during the Austro-Sardinian war. Dunant saw the field at Solferino the day after a battle. Horrified at the suffering, he formed a group of volunteers to help them.

In 1862, Dunant published a pamphlet called Un Souvenir de Solferino (Recollections of Solferino). It ended with the plea, "Would it not be possible to found and organize in all civilized countries permanent societies of volunteers who in time of war would give help to the wounded without regard for their nationality?" The appeal won favorable response. In 1863, delegates from 16 nations and several charitable organizations met in Geneva to discuss the idea. This conference laid the groundwork and chose the organization's symbol.

Delegates from 12 European nations met in Geneva in 1864 on invitation from the Swiss Federal Council. There were 2 observers from the United States. Out of this meeting came the first Geneva Convention. Later treaties amended and improved it.

The United States

Congress did not ratify the Geneva Convention for 18 years, fearing foreign entanglements. The American Association for the Relief of Misery on the Battlefields was organized during this time. It adopted the red cross as its emblem. The group disbanded in 1871. Clara Barton worked to have the treaty ratified, and helped to establish the American Association of the Red Cross in 1881. President Chester A. Arthur signed the treaty in 1882. In 1905, Congress established the basic organization of today. The American Red Cross grew during World War l, World War ll, and the Korean War. Its programs and services are funded by voluntary contributions.

Veteran Services

A special staff helps veterans and their dependents present claims before administration boards. Also helps them solve personal and family problems, provides counseling, emergency communications, and financial aid.


Programs begin before disaster strikes. Local chapters help communities develop year round preparedness for situations. Volunteer groups are trained to provide food, clothing, emergency first-aid, medical service, and operate shelters for homeless families.

The Blood Program

Collects and distributes more blood than any other agency in the U.S. It collects millions of donations every year from voluntary donors. The Red Cross is the coordinating agency for the U.S. Department of Defense during a national emergency.

Safety Programs

Offers courses in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. These courses include information on accident prevention. Also teaches swimming lessons, life-saving, and how to use boats. Local chapters provide demonstrations and exhibits on safety training. Certificates of merit are awarded to persons who use the skills that they learned in the courses to save lives.

International Services

The American National Red Cross maintains relationships with the society in other countries. It provides emergency help to disaster victims and refugees. It also helps reunite families separated by war, disasters, and other emergencies.


Major General G.S. Ryerson brought the group to Canada during the Northwest Rebellion of 1885. He established the first overseas British branch in 1896. The Canadian Red Cross Society developed from this, and was incorporated by the Canadian Parliament in 1909. It was recognized in 1927.

This poem is from 1933.

Clara Barton

By Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet

Brave Clara Barton

Stood beside her door,

And watched young soldiers

March away to war.

She went to work

To help keep men alive,

And never got a moment's rest

Till eighteen sixty five.

She washed and she bandaged,

She shooed away the flies,

She hurried in nurses,

She begged for supplies.

She cared for the wounded

And comforted the dying,

With no time for sleep

And still less for crying.

Clara Barton went abroad

When the war was ended,

Hoping for a little peace

Now that things had mended.

Clara found, as soon

As her foot touched shore,

That she'd come just in time

For the Franco-Prussian war.

After that, her life, for her,

Held but little rest,

With famine in the East

And earthquakes in the West.

Floods, drowning Johnstown,

Hurricanes in Texas,

Fires, out in Michigan,

Things that fright and vex us.

In between the hurry calls,

Never at a loss,

She founded and established

The merciful Red Cross.


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    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      I look forward to learning more.

    • howtocurecancer profile image

      howtocurecancer 6 years ago

      I never knew about Clara Barton. Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Dear Jack2205,

      Coming back to feature this worthy lens on my Redcross lens that you blessed today -


    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      As the founder of Red Cross, I truly admire Clara Barton. Not many people are as instrumental and steadfast in their endeavours and she did the important work for the foundation of Red cross what is there - today.

    • MomwithAHook LM profile image

      Sara Duggan 6 years ago from California

      Looking forward to the full story -

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Looking forward to the full lens. I have heard of her, but didn't know much about her. Lensrolled to my One Hundred years Ago lens.

    • jp1978 profile image

      jp1978 6 years ago

      I love history. I'd never heard of Clara Barton before, thanks for sharing.