A fearless humanitarian who helped revolutionize medicine on the battlefield, Clara Barton is renowned for her lifelong dedication to helping others. she was a teacher, nurse, abolitionist, and women’s rights activist. And though more than 200 years have passed since her birth on Christmas Day 1821, she remains one of the most honored women in American history.
When Barton died in 1912 at the age of 91, the New York Times wrote: “She was a woman of remarkable executive ability, boundless enthusiasm, inspired by human ideas…her name became a household word, associated in the public mind with goodness and mercy.”
explore 7 extraordinary facts about this extraordinary woman.
1. she was terribly shy.
barton was so shy as a child that her mother consulted l.n. fowler, a noted phrenologist, to examine her skull and offer advice. she clearly recommended teaching, a career that employed relatively few women at the time. Undaunted, Barton listened and became a teacher in her hometown of North Oxford, Massachusetts, at the age of 17. she encouraged her students without harsh discipline and was praised for it.
“As a child, I did not know that the surest proof of discipline is its absence,” she later wrote. “Her compassion for others and her willingness to help them always overcame her shyness,” said David Price, executive director of the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum in Washington, D.C.
2. opened one of the first free public schools in new jersey.
While visiting a friend in Bordentown, New Jersey, in 1852, Barton encountered many poor school-age children on the streets. determined to help them, she received permission to open a free public school, the first in bordentown. by the end of the year, the school had grown from six students to several hundred. But when the school turned out to be a success, the board hired a male principal to run it at double Barton’s salary. barton left in protest.
She later said, “Sometimes I may be willing to teach for nothing, but if I’m paid, I’ll never do a man’s job for less than a man pays.”
3. As one of the first women to work for the federal government, she fought for equal pay.
Barton moved to Washington, D.C., in 1854, and became a copyist for the United States. Patent office. within a year, she was promoted to secretary, making her the first woman to receive a government appointment. she successfully lobbied to earn the same $1,400 salary as her male colleagues, many of whom resented women in the workplace. the rise of it did not last long. a new boss demoted her to copyist, earning 10 cents per 100 words.
4. Her work as a civil war nurse and first responder began with the Baltimore riots.
on april 19, 1861, a few weeks after the civil war broke out, confederate sympathizers attacked massachusetts soldiers traveling through baltimore, maryland, killing four. the wounded were taken to the unfinished u.s. Capitol Building, near where Barton worked in the US. uu. Patent office.
Barton rushed to the aid of the wounded and was surprised to discover that some of the men were his former students. “They were faithful to me in their childhood, and faithful to their country in their maturity,” he said.
She quickly collected food, medicine, and clothing from her own home and helped care for them. It was the start of Barton’s Civil War nursing career, earning her the name “Angel of the Battlefield.”
5. Barton was nearly killed at the Battle of Antietam.
As Barton cradled the head of a wounded soldier in Antietam, a bullet tore through the sleeve of his dress and struck his patient.
“a ball has passed between my body and the right arm that was supporting it, crossing its chest from shoulder to shoulder. there was nothing else to do for him and I let him rest,” Barton wrote. “I have never mended that hole in my sleeve.”
6. founded the office for missing soldiers.
by the end of the civil war, tens of thousands of men were missing. With Lincoln’s approval, Barton founded the Missing Soldiers Bureau to help families locate their loved ones. Of the 63,000 requests she and her small team received, she located 22,000 men, some of whom were still alive.
Barton was a woman who lived by her words, “You must never think of anything except need and how to fill it.”
7. Barton’s work convinced the International Red Cross to expand its role to include peacetime disaster relief.
After witnessing and joining the efforts of the International Red Cross in Europe to help victims of war, Barton founded the American Red Cross in 1881. He led several relief efforts, including those for the Mississippi River floods and the ohio river His innovative work not only helped many Americans. he convinced the international red cross to expand its mission to include helping those affected by natural disasters.
price said, “the only reason we have a red cross responding to natural disasters and emergencies today is because of this lady and her determination to help her fellow man.”
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