December 25 - Happy Birthday, Clara Barton!

Posted on December 25, 2017

When I hear the date "December 25," I think of Christmas. 

And when I think of Christmas, I think of red and green, and I think of people helping people, and I sometimes think of Clara Barton! 

As I mentioned in an earlier post, nurse Clara Barton was born on Christmas Day. The place was Maryland; the year was 1821. Barton ended up starting the American RED Cross and helping people in a variety of different ways.

During Barton's lifetime, women rarely worked out in the public - they generally worked hard, but in private homes.

Barton was different.

She was a teacher, and she was so successful that she was contracted to open her own free school. And THAT was so successful, Barton hired another (female) teacher, and the town raised enough money to build a school building worthy of these capable teachers.

Of course, once the building was completed, and the students and teachers moved their lessons inside of it, the institution was much too grand for a woman to run it. Suddenly, Barton was no longer running the school she'd created; a man was hired to be principal.

Of course, Barton ended up quitting. She moved to Washington, D.C., and she began to work as a clerk in the U.S. Patent Office. This was the first time a woman had received an important job in the federal government - AND she was paid the same amount as men in her position. Oh, the horrors! 

It's sad to report that Barton received a ton of insults and lies about her character from male coworkers (who I guess felt threatened by a single successful working woman???!!). And she was demoted to a position that seemed more worthy of a mere woman, and then she was fired!

When the Civil War started, Barton began to help wounded militia members and eventually soldiers. She collected clothing for them, provided food, read to them, offered emotional support to them. She wrote letters to wounded men's families...and she learned how to provide some medical help for the injuries, as well.

Eventually Barton got permission to provide nursing services on the front lines, and she was also able to rally support for the soldiers in the form of donated medical supplies. 

Soon Barton was, not just feeding, reading to, and listening to soldiers, she was distributing necessary medical supplies, bandaging wounds, changing dressings, cleaning field hospitals. Soon she was called the Angel of the Battlefield and the American Nightingale. (Florence Nightingale was a famous British nurse who is credited with being the founder of modern nursing.) She was made the "lady in charge" of hospitals for the Army of the James.

One time Barton was tending to a solidier when a bullet tore through her dress sleeve - never hitting Barton herself! - and struck and killed the patient she was trying to help!

It's interesting to note that, although Barton was from a Union state and worked with the Union Army generals, she tended Confederate soldiers as well as Union soldiers.

After the war was over, Barton was invited to give speeches about her experiences all over the nation. She met Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, and she became an activist working for women's suffrage and civil rights. 

In 1869, when she was traveling in Switzerland, Barton learned about the Red Cross, an organization that helps victims of war - prisoners of war, wounded soldiers, refugees, and civilians. 

When she returned to the U.S., Barton worked to get an American Red Cross off the ground. She widened its scope so that the aid organization doesn't just help victims of wars, but also responds to natural disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes.

Barton became the president of the American Red Cross when it was officially founded in 1881.

Barton never married (although she had three proposals during her lifetime), and she did not confine herself to a private life tied to a home. Instead, she lived a very public life of humanitarian service.

Also on this date:

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