In celebration of Red Cross Month, we look to honor our heroes past and present. Have you ever heard of Clara Barton? She was an everyday hero – just like many of you! Her impact was strong enough to start a movement of humanitarian efforts in the United States that would later become your American Red Cross.
Clara’s pioneering began around the start of the American Civil War. She was working as a copyist in the U.S. Patent Office in Washington D.C. as troops began to emerge in the city. The war had just started and troops were already feeling the impact. With a sense of duty and good will, she started aiding troops with provisions, washed and fed patients, carried on their messages, and listened to their tales. The stories the soldiers shared filled her with a passion to directly assist soldiers on the battlefield; this was a request that was considered impossible.
Clara was unbroken and eventually gained permission to the front of multiple battle locations, bringing everything from food to bandages. Her mule-drawn wagon was a much-appreciated general store for the wounded. In one 24-hour period, at the battle of Cedar Mountain, Dr. James Dunn treated twenty-two thigh amputations and countless arm amputations. He was running dangerously low on supplies. Clara Barton arrived at his location with a collection of dressings, alcohol, and medical supplies to assist. The “Angel of the Battlefield” had arrived.
By 1869, Clara’s health had suffered and she took time to recover in Europe. During a stay in Switzerland, she was visited by one of the founders of International Red Cross and first learned about the articles of the Geneva Convention. Throughout the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes and Chester B. Arthur, she worked tirelessly to urge the U.S. to ratify the Geneva Convention. In 1882, her financial, public, and physical efforts made progress when the Senate finally ratified the treaty. In 1884, she took it one step further and traveled to Geneva, Switzerland at the International Conference of the Red Cross. The American Amendment was adopted, and the American Red Cross was born.
The heroics of Clara Barton are part of a large story. Her work shows the importance of everyday heroes and just how strong of an impact one person can have on people here and abroad.