Fantastic Females: Clara Barton

Emma Ashooh S1


-Born: December 25, 1821 in North Oxford, Massachusetts

-Died: April 12, 1912 in Glen Echo, Maryland

-Middle Class Family

  • Father was successful farmer and business man, rep to the state legislature, humanitarian
  • Mother was distant and eccentric with a strong will and heated temper
  • Youngest of 5 kids
-Became a teacher (one of the few professions open to women at that time)

  • taught for 12 years
  • clashed with the principle who was jealous of her successes and made her life miserable

-1854: On verge of nervous break down and quit her job and moved to Washington D.C.

-Thanks to her relative who worked in Congress, Barton got work copying secret papers for the U.S. Patent Office, becoming the first woman clerk in the federal government

  • forced to resign from position three years later when her strong anti-slavery views contrasted with the new pro-slavery president, James Buchanan
  • she continued doing copy work for the patent office by mail in Massachusetts and was called back to her job in Washington after the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860

On the Battlefield

-When the Civil War broke out Barton was shocked to see that there were no preparations to care for the wounded and she opened up her apartment and began caring for as many wounded soldiers as space allowed.

-After much opposition, Clara received official permission to serve as a battlefield nurse

  • people thought women lacked courage and stamina and would get in the way on the battlefield

-Worked in Virginia and Maryland feeding, clothing, and bandaging Union soldiers

  • from this she earned the nickname Angel of the Battlefield

-The soldiers all respected her and adored her for her hard work, dedication, and bravery

Post War Actions

-After the war Barton focused her efforts on tracking down all of the missing men from the war

  • With the help of veterans, she found information on 22,000 soldiers
  • When she heard of the Andersonville prison camp in Georgia where 13,000 Union prisoners died and were buried in unmarked graves she led the effort to turn the camp into a national cemetery, each body buried deeper and with a marked stone
-On the verge of another breakdown Barton took some time off from raising money for her projects and vacationed to Switzerland

  • She met Dr. Louis Appia, a physician who asked for her help in convincing the US to ratify the Treaty of Geneva (one of its provisions called for the creation of an international relief organization (Red Cross)
  • Barton promised to do whatever she could as soon as she felt up to working again
- Barton helped organize relief efforts with the Red Cross after the Franco-Prussian War

-After becoming sick, Barton moved back to America and when she became better, she worked towards creating an American chapter in the Red Cross.

Red Cross

-Barton asked Dr. Appia for his permission to start an American chapter of the Red Cross

-He agreed and named her the US representative of the organization

-She worked to convince the government to ratify the Treaty of Geneva but they refused, not wanting to get into the business of other countries

-Instead of approaching the idea of the organization through the treaty, she promoted it as a peacetime relief foundation that responds to natural disasters

-In May 1881 Barton established the first American Red Cross Chapter and was elected president of the organization.

-That fall the Red Cross responded to their first crisis which was a forest fire in Michigan. Impressed with the work, Congress ratified the Treaty thanks to Barton's performance in promoting the Red Cross

-Clara devoted all of her time to the Red Cross, not only as its chief executive but also traveling to relief operations all around the country

-She also travelled to Europe to partake in the Red Cross conference in Geneva as the US delegate, the only women to do so at that conference

-Barton' idea of turning the Red Cross from war time relief to natural disaster relief was adopted to the Red Cross as the American Amendment

-Barton was the president of the Red Cross for 20 years, participating in relief efforts into her 70'

Leadership Styles

-Clara Barton lead with a paternalistic style.

  • She acted as a mother figure to the soldiers she helped on the battlefield
  • Called them "her boys"
  • Stretching her sources to help as many as she could, taking them into her home and raising funds to buy the medical supplies necessary
  • Supported the soldiers through their tough times as they then repaid back to her, never losing sight of the greatness she did for them

-Leadership Characteristics:

  • Enthusiastic- Barton devoted every ounce of her life to achieving her dreams and reaching goals that she set for herself. She rallied people behind her efforts with her enthusiasm on the subjects
  • Endurance- Barton never gave up on her aspirations. She pushed and pushed until she achieved her goals. Clara was very persistent with the tasks she was given.
  • Unselfishness- Clara worked her self to a literal breaking point helping others all throughout her life. Even in time off that she took Clara found someone new to help.
  • Courage, Initiative, Tact- All three of these she used on the battlefields and at the natural disaster sites, which is why she was given the nickname "Angel of the Battlefields" and was such a respected woman in her field
  • Dependability- Barton was able to help all of the people she did because she was so dependable and always persisted when helping any kind of victim. She never gave up on ratifying the Treaty of Geneva or the countless victims she helped from the war and natural disasters


"Clara Barton." Contemporary Heroes and Heroines. Vol. 2. Gale, 1992. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 4 Dec. 2012.

"Clara Barton (1821-1912)." Gale Biography in Context. Detroit: Gale, 2010. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 9 Dec. 2012.