Barton had found her calling when she tended to her brother David after he was injured in an accident. She then later found another way to help people. At the age of fifteen, Clara Barton became a teacher and later opened a free public school in New Jersey. In the mid-1850’s, she moved to Washington D.C. to work as a clerk in the U.S. Patent Office.
When the Civil War began, Clara Barton helped out as much as she could, at first, by collecting supplies and distributing them for the Union Army. She wanted to do more so she eventually served as an independent nurse in the battlefield. Barton first saw combat in 1862 at Fredricksburg, Virginia and also cared for the soldiers who were wounded at Antietam. The soldiers then gave her the nickname of the Angel of the Battlefield. When the war ended in 1865, Clara Barton worked for the War Department to help reunite missing soldiers with their families or at least try to find information on missing soldiers.
During the Franco-Prussian War in Europe in 1870-71, Barton worked with a relief organization known as the International Red Cross. When she returned home, she lobbied for an American branch of the organization. In 1881, the American Red Cross Society was founded and Clara Barton served as the organization’s first president. As the leader of the relief organization, she oversaw the relief efforts and assistance for the victims of such disasters as the 1889 Johnstown flood and the 1900 Galveston flood.
Clara Barton served as president of the organization until 1904 when she resigned during an internal power struggle and assertions of financial mismanagement. Clara Barton never took a salary for her work with the Red Cross and often times used her funds to support some relief efforts. Barton remained active after leaving the Red Cross by giving speeches and lectures. She also wrote a book titled The Story of My Childhood. The book was published in 1907.
On April 12, 1912, Clara Barton died at her home in Glen Echo, Maryland. As a humanitarian, Clara Barton left a tremendous legacy that has been relatively unmatched.
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