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"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."
-Clara Barton (American Civil War Nurse & Founder of the American National Red Cross, 1821-1912)
Whenever a disaster hits, The American Red Cross is usually one of the first organizations to swoop in and help. As stated on their website, "your local Red Cross Chapter is committed to meeting the humanitarian needs of the people in your area, be it in disaster preparedness, disaster relief, first aid and CPR training, or disease prevention. You can help support your local chapter programs and services through a gift to your local Red Cross chapter."
The question is....who started The American Red Cross? Well, it was a famous nurse by the name of Clara Barton.
Born in 1821 in Oxford, Massachusetts, Clara Barton was born to be a nurse. From a young age, she exhibited a natural gift of helping those around her--particularly the wounded in need of medical care. After a dangerous fall from the barn rafters, she nursed her brother back to health for 2 years, learning to administer medicine and care for him--quite a feat for the typical 11-year old girl living in any time period. Her great Aunt was a nurse midwife for 30 years, so helping out those in need was definitely in Clara's blood.
In April of 1862, at the age of 41, Clara began distributing supplies to soldiers who were wounded after the Battle of Bull Run. Determined to get out and help the soldiers who were fighting, she was then given permission by General William Hammond to actually ride in army ambulances to provide assistance to wounded soldiers. Over time she wound up actually being behind the lines during some of the most gruesome battles of the Civil War. As a human being, this was quite remarkable. As a female, this was quite a feat. Clara Barton soon became known as "The Angel of the Battlefield", a title she whole-heartedly deserved.
Clara Barton certainly did not stop when she finished her military nursing duties on the battlefield. Armed with compassion and an unrelenting desire to help those in need in disaster situations, she was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln as the person in charge of the missing men in the Union Army. She, in tandem with Dorence Atwater, a young soldier, published a list of 13,000 soldiers who had perished in the war. It was her every intention that those who fought and died for her country should be honored and respected.
After seeing all she had seen on the battlefield, Clara Barton became well-known not only for her compassion, but for her ability to inspire change. She met with Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, the famous black civil rights abolitionist. She was not only fighting for those who were wounded on the battlefield, but for those whose daily lives were considered a battlefield for equality: blacks and women. No stranger to working with past Presidents of the United States, she was eventually able to convince President Garfield that The American Red Cross was needed to respond to future crises that required medical and supplies relief. Low and behold, she eventually became President of The American Red Cross, solidifying her place in American history--and in the hearts of anyone who understands the compassion it takes to be a nurse--regardless of the time period in which you live.
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