The Angel of the Battlefield

volunteer firefighters in ColoradoClara Barton was born in Massachusetts on Christmas Day, 1821, the youngest of five children. She was a bright child who accelerated in her home studies, and became a teacher herself when she was 17. Following several years of teaching and study, she opened a free school in New Jersey, where attendance grew to 600 because of her administration. However, when the opportunity came for her to officially lead the school, the board chose to hire a man instead. Frustration over this decision lead her to Washington D.C. where she worked in the U.S. Patent Office.

What Clara is best known for is her work as a nurse on the battlefields of the Civil War. She did not have formal nursing training; she had instead the gift of nursing. She wanted to help but women had never before been allowed on the battlefield, so her services were initially rejected. Eventually, she gained the trust of those in charge and became known as the “Angel of the Battlefield,” finally becoming the superintendent of Union nurses in 1864.

Spending time in Europe in 1869, Clara learned about the Red Cross while travelling with volunteers during the Franco-Prussian War. She came home, establishing an American Red Cross and expanding its original concept to include offering aid in any national disaster.

Clara Barton was President of the American National Red Cross for 22 years. She was also the most decorated American woman in history, receiving the Iron Cross, the Cross of Imperial Russia and the International Red Cross Medal. She retired from the American Red Cross at the age of 83.

Clara had two Rules of Action.

  1. Unconcern for what cannot be helped
  2. Control under pressure.

She accomplished amazing things following these rules.


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