Clara Barton

Angel of the Battlefield

A pioneering nurse and a dedicated humanitarian, who founded the American Red Cross, and cared for wounded and sick soldiers during the Civil War.

One of the most respected woman in American history, Clarissa ‘Clara’ Harlowe Barton was an educator and a pioneering nurse. A symbol of charitable and self-sacrifice, she worked tirelessly on the front lines of the Civil War.

Known as the ‘Angel of the Battlefield’ Clara Barton risked her life to take supplies, support and tended to injured soldiers as well as maintain a high standard in Army hospitals. She founded the American Red Cross – one of the largest humanitarian organizations in the United States.

Clarissa Barton was one of the great heroines of the 19th century – A Woman of Valor. Despite the many risks she took during her lifetime, Clara Barton lived until the age of 90. On April 12th, 1912, she passed away from tuberculosis in her home at Glen Echo, Maryland. USA.

Name:   Clara  Barton
Born:   25 December 1821
Star Sign: Capricorn
Died:   12 April 1912
Birthplace: Oxford, Massachusetts.
Country: United States
DetailsOther Names
Clarissa "Clara" Harlowe Barton, 'Angel of the Battlefield.'
Captain Stephen Barton
Sarah Stone Barton.

Clarissa 'Clara' Harlowe Barton was born on December 25, 1821, in North Oxford, Massachusetts to Captain Stephen Barton, and Sarah Stone Barton. Her father, a prosperous business man and community leader served in the Indian wars and owned a farm. He inspired his daughter with patriotism and a broad humanitarian interest.

When Clara was ten years-old, she tended to her brother David after his accident. After David's recovery, Clara a shy child, was sent to a private boarding but her shyness affected her health and she returned home.

Teaching Profession
Upon her return, her family relocated in order to help a family member: a paternal cousin of Clara's had died and left his wife with four children and a farm. Clara enjoyed activities, horseback riding and learnt social skills with her cousins. To overcome her shyness, Clara decided on teaching as a profession.

She achieved her teacher's certificate at the aged of 17 years and became an educator in 1838. For 12 years Barton taught in Canada and West Georgia.

Early Professional Life
After her mother's death in 1851, Barton decided to further her education by enrolling at the Clinton Liberal Institute in New York. After teaching at a local school, she opened a free public school in New Jersey. It was so successful that the pupil number rose to 600.

The accomplishment compelled the town to building a new school. However, after completion, because of her gender Barton's position was replaced by a male principal by the school board and demoted her to ‘female assistant’. After suffering health problems, Clara resigned.

Patent Clerk
In 1855, Barton moved to Washington, D.C., to work in the U.S. Patent Office as a clerk. She received much abuse and slander from male clerks, because of her gender. After President James Buchanan took office in 1857, she was dismissed.Barton went home to North Oxford, but later returned to the Patent Office in 1861. She hoped she could make way for more women in government service. While in Washington D.C., the American Civil War began.

American Civil War
On April 19, 1861, a mob of Southern sympathizers attacked soldiers from the 6th Massachusetts Regiment in Baltimore, killing and wounding soldiers and civilians. A makeshift hospital was set up at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C.

When Barton heard about it, she left the Patent Office to tend to the wounded. She organized food, medicine, clothing and supplies for the troops. A volunteer network was set up that lasted the entirety of the war. In July 1861, Barton tend to the routed multitudes from the First Battle of Bull Run and soldiers that returned from the Battle of Ball’s Bluff.

Angel of the Battlefield
On August 1862, Barton gained permission to work in the field hospitals on the front lines. She organized an efficient system of distributing food and supplies. She remained in close proximity of battle zones - managing a high standard of cleanliness in hospitals, apply dressings, distribute food and supplies to wounded soldiers.

In 1864, Barton was appointed the lady in charge of the hospital and her services to troops in the battlefield earned her the name of the 'Angel of the Battlefield'.

After the War
After the war, Barton opened the 'Office of Missing Soldiers'. From 1865 to 1868, Barton lectured around the country about her war experiences and gained widespread recognition.

She also met Susan Anthony and became associated with the woman’s suffrage movement and became an activist for Civil Rights. After her country-wide tour, Barton was both mentally and physically exhausted and under doctor’s orders decided to travel to Europe.

American Red Cross
In 1869, during her trip to Geneva, Switzerland, Barton came into contact with the International Committee of the Red Cross. She participated in relief efforts during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 to 1871, but in 1872, ill health forced her into temporary retirement.

When Barton returned to the United States,she campaigned to establish an American branch of the Red Cross. In 1881, she became President of the American Association of the Red Cross. In addition to her Red Cross duties, Barton was actively involved in education and prison reform.

At the age of 77, Barton travelled with five other Red Cross expeditions providing relief and aid and worked in Cuban hospitals. Under her presidency, the Red Cross worked tirelessly during Spanish-American War and several other calamities and natural disasters.

In 1904, Barton resigned as President of the American Red Cross at the aged of 83. Clara Barton remained active, giving speeches and lectures. She also wrote 'The Story of My Childhood,' which was published in 1907. On April 12, 1912, Barton died at her home in Glen Echo, Maryland.

Her Legacy
Although Clara Barton never married, nor had any children, she left a legacy behind in the outstanding humanitarian work provided by the American chapter of the Red Cross. She never won any awards, but numerous high schools, streets and other places named after her. Her house is now considered a national historical site, and the house in which she was born is now a museum honoring her and her contributions to the country.

As a teacher, Barton opened a school in Bordentown, New Jersey. Impressed by the rapidly growing enrollment, local authorities provided $4,000 to build a new and larger school. But Clara was replaced by a man, who was paid double her salary.

Brush with a Bullet. While tending a wounded man, a bullet ripped through her puffed sleeve, and killed a soldier standing next to her.

Clara Barton, full name- Clarissa Harlowe Barton, was a character from the novel Clarissa or the History of a Young Lady, which her aunt was reading when Clara was born in 1821.

Clara grew up on a farm in Oxford, Mass. When she was six, she saw an ox slaughtered for food and was a vegetarian from thereon.

Clara’s was 11 years old, when she was first exposure to tending for the wounded. Her brother, David fell from the roof of their family barn and Clara cared for him. David recovered after Clara was told by a visiting doctor to stop leeching him.

In 1853, Barton was a copyist in the Patent Office in Washington, D.C., the first woman in America to be a full-time employee of the federal government, but her male co-workers treated her poorly, and even spit tobacco in her skirt.

Clara was first introduced to the International Red Cross when she visited Switzerland while recovering from a nervous breakdown after the war.

When Clara moved the American Red Cross headquarters from Washington D.C. to Glen Echo, Maryland, she often make lunch for the volunteers using food grown in the office’s garden.

Clara lived to be 91 years old. Her last words: “Let me go.”

As a teacher, Clara Barton decided to pursue a college degree in 1950. After graduating in 1951 she opened a free school in Bordentown, New Jersey.

"It irritates me to be told how things have always been done. I defy the tyranny of precedent. I cannot afford the luxury of a closed mind."

"You must never so much think as whether you like it or not, whether it is bearable or not; you must never think of anything except the need, and how to meet it."

"I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while our soldiers can stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them."

"I may sometimes be willing to teach for nothing, but if paid at all, I shall never do a man's work for less than a man's pay."

"The surest test of discipline is its absence."

"Offering a hand up is not a hand-out."

"While soldiers can stand and fight.I can fight and feed them"

"Everybody's business is nobody's business, and nobody's business is my business."

"The door that nobody else will go in at, seems always to swing open widely for me."

"This conflict is one thing I’ve been waiting for. I’m well and strong and young – young enough to go to the front. If I can’t be a soldier, I’ll help soldiers."


Clara Barton lived her last fifteen years in Glen Echo, Maryland, which also served as the American Red Cross headquarters. On April 12th, 1912, Clara Barton passed away, aged 90 from tuberculosis. She was buried in the Barton family cemetery plot in Oxford, Massachusetts, less than a mile from her birthplace.

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