North Oxford, Massachusetts
December 25, 1821– April 12, 1912
Born to abolitionist parents, Clarissa Harlowe Barton was the youngest of five and grew up with a thirst for knowledge. When she was eleven she nursed her brother back to health over two years after he fell from the top of their barn. By the age of seventeen she was a teacher, even founding her own school.
When the Civil War broke out she felt compelled to help injured soldiers. Women had not been allowed on the front before so Barton faced some opposition, but she was soon known and the “Angel of the Battlefield” as her efforts made her famous. President Lincoln encouraged her interest in reuniting lost soldiers with their families after the war. She made 30,000 connections for families.
After the war she traveled to Europe where she encountered the International Committee of the Red Cross who were a neutral organization caring for victims of war. She carried the idea back to America with her and formed the American Red Cross, becoming its president. She expanded the mission of the organization to include those suffering from anything, helping people in floods, famines, disease, and earthquake. Her leadership quickly gave the American Red Cross the recognition it needed to truly help.
During her life, Barton also promoted civil rights and women’s suffrage. She spoke on the importance of education and prison conditions. The last years of her life saw her found the National First Aid Association that encouraged first aid training for everyone. It was later absorbed by the Red Cross.