White House Dream Team: Clara Barton

Drawing of Clara Barton Clara Barton

Clara Barton received an education at home before becoming a teacher at age 15. She later attended the Liberal Institute in Clinton, New York. Clara enjoyed the challenge of starting a new organization, and she started a school in New Jersey in 1852. The school became so popular that the leaders of the town would no longer allow a woman to run it. Clara was sad about their decision, so she resigned and took a job at the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C. She was one of only a few women working for the government at that time.

Clara was persistent, courageous, and caring. When the American Civil War began, she took initiative and organized a system to send medicine and supplies to wounded soldiers. Clara lobbied the War Department continuously until they gave her permission to pass through the battle lines to distribute supplies, search for missing soldiers, and nurse the wounded. Clara continued to aid the wounded throughout the war and risked her own life on many occasions. Her efforts caught the attention of President Lincoln, who asked her to set up a records system for finding missing soldiers.

After the Civil War, Clara went to Europe for a vacation. While there, a war between France and Germany began. Clara worked with the International Red Cross to distribute supplies and materials. When she returned to the United States, Clara asked the United States Government to sign an international agreement, called the Geneva Agreement, which provided rules for humane treatment of those wounded or killed during war. The agreement allowed for the proper treating of the sick and wounded in battle, the identification of those killed in battle, and prisoners of war.

Clara founded the American Association of the International Red Cross when she was 60 years old. She wrote the American amendment to the constitution of the Red Cross, which provides for the distribution of relief during times of war and disasters.

Clara was affectionately known as the "angel of the battlefield" for her life's work. She wrote several books about the Red Cross and her life experiences. Clara's persistence, ability to organize, and vision for easing the pain of those suffering resulted in a lasting legacy known as the American Red Cross.

Brain Challenge:

  1. As a young girl, where did Clara go to school?
  2. How did Clara help soldiers in the Civil War?
  3. How old was Clara when she died?
  4. What was Clara's nickname?
  5. What organization did Clara begin that still exists today?
Share your answers with a parent, teacher or other adult.

Want to learn more?
Visit your school or public library to learn more about these fascinating Americans.

December 25, 1821 in Oxford, Massachusetts

April 12, 1912 in Glen Echo, Maryland

To help the suffering

Educated at home and at Liberal Institute in Clinton, New York

Founder of the American Red Cross

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