Celebrating Clara Barton’s Birthday!

By Annabelle Moore, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross North Texas Region

Today, we celebrate the birth of Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, on Christmas day in 1821.  Before she became a battlefield nurse and world-renowned humanitarian, Clara was a teacher. At just 17 years old, Clara stepped into the classroom, a vocal advocate for free public education and ending slavery.


When the Civil War began in 1861, Clara was busy at work in Washington, D.C., one of the first female federal employees of the U.S. Patent Office. She believed all who experienced armed conflict deserved equal access to medical care and treated all soldiers in need of medical attention regardless of their ethnicity, political, or religious affiliations.

Circa1865. Matthew Brady portrait of Clara Barton.

“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

After the war, Clara worked tirelessly with a small dedicated team at the Office of Correspondence with Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army to identify and notify soldier’s families of their lost loved ones. The team replied to more than 63,000 letters and successfully identified 22,000 men previously thought missing. The office is now a museum, and Clara’s home in Glen Echo, Maryland, is a national historical site.

 Upon traveling to Europe in 1869, Clara learned of the International Committee of the Red Cross and its humanitarian mission. While working alongside Red Cross volunteers, she read A Memory of Solferino by Henri Dunant, the founder of the movement. Inspired by their work on the newly crafted Geneva Conventions, Clara advocated for the U.S. to join.  Clara is proof that it’s never too late to follow your dreams. She established the American Red Cross in 1881 at 59 years old and lead the new organization for 23 years.

You can learn more about Clara’s work at Redcross.org. Want to serve your community as Clara did? Become a volunteer! Give something that means something this holiday season by supporting the American Red Cross humanitarian mission. Donate today! You can also help by donating blood, find the nearest blood drive near you

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