Angel for Those In Need: ‘Clara’ Barton
Linda Marie Brainard

 

"She’s a beauty this one, Captain. See how she nestles at my bosom with the grace of a princess and look of a pure angel. Her birth all the easier due to her eagerness to enter this world, as though she were already on a mission from God. This daughter will be great in her lifetime. I tell you, dear husband. For she is a true blessing from God/" remarked Sarah ‘Stone’ Barton of the birth of her baby girl. Clarissa Harlowe Barton was born on Christmas Day in 1821 on a hill at the family farm three miles west of North Oxford, Massachusetts.

"I could not have asked for better were I breeding the thoroughbreds!" exclaimed Captain Stephen Barton with a chuckle. "Now you must rest, Sarah. Our Christmas Angel will be requiring your services soon enough."

She was named Clarissa Harlowe for an aunt who had herself been named after the heroine of Samuel Richardson’s greatest novel, ‘Clarissa Harlowe’. It was published in 1748 and was popular for some years after.

Sarah, at this time, was thirty-four. Stephen Barton was a well-respected member of his community who farmed and raised horses.

It was clear early on that their ‘Clara’ would suffer from an undeniable case of Shyness, but she was born a fighter. She was fine in the company of her relatives; being in public was a totally different matter. However, she would one day overcome her shyness by the life she chooses to lead. She was responsible for shortening her name to ‘Clara’ in later years.

Stephen Barton and Sarah Stone married early in 1804 when Sarah was a mere seventeen years of age. Sarah was born in 1787 and Stephen in 1774. ‘Clara’s’ grandfather (5 great) was John Whipple who was born in Bocking, Essex County, England, settling in Ipswich, Massachusetts by 1638. Captain Stephen Barton served in the American Revolutionary War for three years under General Anthony Wayne. Called "Mad Anthony" due to his reckless daring, he died in 1796. And his love of family and country taught ‘Clara’, "next to Heaven, our highest duty was to love and serve our country and honor and support its laws."

Almost every stick of furniture in the Barton house was handmade, even ‘Clara’s’ crib.

‘Clara’ was their fifth and youngest child. Already they were blessed with two sons and two daughters. Dorothea was born late in 1804, Stephen was born in 1806, David in 1808, and Sally was born in 1810. They all being so much older than ‘Clara’ played a part in the education of their baby sister even before her starting school at age four. "With the lilacs in bloom," at the age of two and a half on the family farm "there came the first moment of my life that I remember." said ‘Clara’. Her second recollection coming at about the age of four after David was left in charge of watching her and "some outside duty called him from the house." A storm left her terrified, and she admitted being so for the first several years of her life. It was clear early on that their ‘Clara’ would suffer from an undeniable case of shyness, but she was born a fighter.

The elder Bartons helped to establish the Oxford meeting house- one of the first Universalist churches in existence. The Barton ancestors were of the Puritan Doctrine and the universalism had a more liberal theology behind it. Every Sunday, no matter the weather, the Bartons drove their buggy five miles to church. To have a fire for heat on Sundays was considered a sacrilege in those days. So, many times the children suffered through the cold silently with frozen feet. The churches of the day were simple and severe with preachers who preached sermons of fire and brimstone.

‘Clara’ considered the results of such childhood experiences permanently engraved in her. She did not regret being well disciplined and instilled like teachings in her students. She said once "Show me a child well disciplined, perfectly governed at home, and I will show you a child that never breaks the rule of school. A silken thread will bind that child."

‘Clara’s’ father was of good disposition, but very disciplined and loyal to his country. She adored her father, became his ‘pet’, and followed his lead willingly.

Sarah taught ‘Clara’ household chores, cleanliness, cooking and love of life and family. She thought ‘Clara’ had enough instructors without her help and pretty much kept out of it. Sister Dorothea taught her the art of spelling. David taught her outdoor activities such as swimming and how to become an accomplished horseback rider at the age of five. David was forever challenging ‘Clara’ to a race by horseback to French River near their Cape style farm. Not only did David teach her to ride, but to care for the horses as well. Her sister Sally drilled ‘Clara’ on world geography. The part Stephen played in his baby sister’s learning was as mathematician. ‘Clara’ was very much a tomboy.

As a small child upon her father’s knee ‘Clara’ listened to her father tell about laying helpless in the marshes of Michigan and how a mouthful of dog meat after saved him from starvation.

While a child on the family’s farm ‘Clara’ was always bringing home injured strays, nursing them back to health. These included dogs, cats, birds, even a raccoon or two on occasion.

‘Clara’ had first cousins, Elvira Stone and Jeremiah Learned, of whom she was fond. In 1824 at the age of twenty-four Dorothea suffered from neurasthenia, a nervous break down, before ‘Clara’ reached the age of seven. From the time she was seven until she reached the age of fifteen Andrew Jackson was her first political idol.

The Bartons led close to a rural life where the men wore homespun clothing and coarse leather shoes, plowed, hoed, and hoped.

Just a few days prior to her eleventh birthday ‘Clara’ was given her own horse by her father whom she fondly named "Billy". This same day, when asked what she would like to be when she grows up, 'Clara’ proclaimed, "" want to become a soldier. But I would like to teach, too." Her brothers and sisters laughed at hearing this.Captain Barton remarked, "If that’s the case, then you’ll find the way. May God bless you and help you on your journey." This he told his youngest while watching her with much love in his eyes.

From her mother and maternal grandfather she inherited a hot temper, decisiveness, common sense, warm heart, and a strong will. However, her upbringing was not so soft with her mother’s foreboding of toys and dolls. However, she had plenty of farm animals and horses to keep her company.

Early in 1833 Captain Barton was building a new barn for his horses. David was considered the only one for the roof works, and took a bad fall from the ridgepole. He didn’t seem to be badly hurt, only suffered some pain behind his eyes, even going back to work. But, a week later discovered he was unable to get out of bed. The pain behind hiseyes intensified. ‘Clara’ vowed to nurse her beloved brother back to health and, for the next two years, she nursed him lovingly. ‘Clara’ even accompanied David to a sanitarium where the doctor credited her with his miraculous recovery.

During her school years ‘Clara’ studied such subjects as- philosophy, chemistry, even Latin in addition to the normal. In 1836 a noted phrenologist, L.N. Fowler, advised Captain and Sarah Barton their youngest would be suited to teach.

Fowler told her parents, "She will never assert herself for herself, but for others she will be perfectly fearless." (A phrenologist being someone who professes to tell a person’s character by the shape of his or her skull.)

After the older four children were grown and living outside the home the Bartons set up house with a widow lady who had five children close to the age of ‘Clara’. The six romped and played on over three hundred acres and ‘Clara’ overcame some of her profound shyness.

‘Clara’ once wrote, "I had no playmates, but in effect six fathers and mothers."

On the 10th day of May in 1839 ‘Clara’ passed her teaching examination and, at the age of seventeen, became a teacher in Massachusetts’s District # 9 located in rural Worcester County where she taught school for six years. So, ‘Clara’ "put down her skirts and put up her hair" in order to try to look more grown up for her students. Later she recalled her first day in this manner, "On entering, I found my little school of forty students all seated. I was too timid to address them, but holding my Bible, I said they might take their Testaments and turn to the Sermon on the Mount. All who could

read, read a verse each, I reading with them in turn."

She taught in several different schools before establishing her own back in her hometown. Because of her size, being only five feet tall, ‘Clara’ always felt she had to earn her students’ respect. Sally, Stephen, and Dorothea were also teachers.

Then, in 1845 she started a school for the children of her brother’s mill workers. (a-8)

On April 19th in 1846 ‘Clara’ was dealt a great emotional blow with the news of the death of her beloved sister, Dorothea.

After reaching the age of twenty-nine ‘Clara’ decided she was tired and needed more excitement in her life. So, she left home for the first time and enrolled in the Liberal Institute of Clinton, New York. She already found herself complaining about her old students calling her "Aunt Clara". Here she learned studies especially designed for the advancement of female teachers. She worked on some writing also while taking French by private tutor. And, after only a year there ‘Clara’ accepted a teaching position in New Jersey. It was December of 1850. While at the Institute Mary Norton and Abbey Barker became her close friends, as did Samuel Ramsey from the nearby divinity school. (mm-2) Before the institute the years of teaching were hard and showed no room for advancement. Mary became her best friend and was from Hightstown, New Jersey.

In Bordentown, the site of the state’s first public schools, she was disappointed at the sight of idle young people. Perplexed by the district schools known as "pauper" schools also and persuaded the town officials to start a free school for which she would be principal.

In 1851 Stephen was arrested for suspected bank robbery in New York State, but was not found guilty. And, on the 18th of July this same year ‘Clara’s’ mother died.

By 1852 ‘Clara’ took over a one-room brick schoolhouse that was built in 1839. On the first day of school only six boys showed, but it became so successful that in 1854 it had to be moved to a lager building to house the growing number of students. The school’s attendance grew to six hundred. So, two years later, ‘Clara’ resigned, because she was refused the high paying position at the school. ‘Clara’ blamed this predicament on prejudice which she found hard to eradicate. (This building stayed in use until 1954 after which time it was torn down to make room for the Clara Barton Elementary School.)

"My six pupils had grown to six hundred." stated ‘Clara’.

This was followed by a period of physical and emotional exhaustion. Later in 1854 ‘Clara’ moved to Washington DC and took a job as recording clerk at the United States Patent Office for the Commissioner of Patents, Charles Mason. There her annual salary equaled that of her male counterparts in the amount of $1,400.00. She was the first female clerk and her co-workers made her so uncomfortable. She was let go for what was noted as political reasons and returned to her home in North Oxford where she resided for the next three years.

In the fall of 1860 ‘Clara’ returned to the patent office as copyist.

‘Clara’s’ nephew, Stephen F. Barton at the age of fourteen, accompanied her to Washington DC to see the new president sworn into office. It was the 4th day of March in 1860 and they were to watch the inauguration take place on the steps of the capital. Eventually, a large black carriage rode up Pennsylvania Avenue carrying Abraham and Mary ‘Todd’ Lincoln inside. Upon eyeing Lincoln for the first time, ‘Clara’ thought him to look very sad. Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Roger Taney, swore the president into office.

"We keep cheerful and toil on." ‘Clara’ Barton once stated. She also said "You must never so much as think whether you like it or not; whether it is bearable or not; you must never think of anything except the need, and how to meet it."

On the 21st day of March in 1862, after she returned home and lovingly nursed him for several months, her father, Captain Stephen Barton, died at the age of eighty-eight.She had willingly returned to care for him during his last illness, knowing he was old and would not last much longer. So, ‘Clara’ put her life on hold for the welfare of her father until his death.

The civil War broke out and ‘Clara’ quit her job at the patent office to volunteer with collecting supplies for the Union soldiers. At first the United States Government refused to give her any help or encouragement.

That summer ‘Clara’ received a letter from the Surgeon General of the Union Army, Major Rucker, which granted permission for her to go the front lines and nurse wounded soldiers. This she did faithfully for the next two years, being then chosen Superintendent of Nurses for the Army of the James in 1864.

‘Clara’ was at the Battle of Chantilly in Virginia and, in its aftermath, the hillside was covered with wounded. She hadn’t realized, even though she knew there was need for her services, it would be as traumatic a scene as it actually was. She looked like an angel from God to most of the wounded and dying. Any little act of kindness from her was deeply appreciated. And, though she was unable to save many, ‘Clara’ made their last days or hours more comfortable. She fed soup to those who couldn’t feed themselves, telling them the train would be there soon to take them to the hospital in Washington, where everything would be okay. She also saw to it that clean, dry socks were put on cold, wet feet.

One of the wounded was a boy by the name of Charlie Hamilton. He was wounded in the right shoulder. A wound ‘Clara’ feared ruined Charlie’s chances of ever using hisright arm again. At a younger age Charlie was one of her students and he often carried her books home for her in his right arm. ‘Clara’ had to tell him she feared he’d not be carrying anything in that arm again. Charlie simply replied, "Then, I’ll carry them in my left." More than likely, it was, at least, twenty-four hours before wounded were seen by any professional medical help, so everything ‘Clara’ did for them helped their chances for survival until that time.

‘Clara’ was given clothing in the color of the Union soldiers’ uniforms, so this made her easier to recognize.

Once a doctor in the field came running up the hill, beckoning ‘Clara’ to come with him. A boy who was badly hurt was calling for his sister. The doctor said, "I don’t give him long to live, but his cries for his sister just break my heart." The boy was hardly old enough to even be a soldier and this was only the second battle in which ‘Clara’ tried to help the wounded.

He cried, "Mary. Oh, Mary! Please come. I am wounded. Mary! Mary!" When ‘Clara’ knelt beside him a smile came across his face. "I knew you would come, Mary." She wrapped his cold feet in blankets for warmth and tried to feed him some warm soup for nourishment. The young soldier talked to ‘Clara’ as though she were his sister. The soldier’s happiness of thinking his sister cradled his head in her lap made it impossible for ‘Clara’ to leave. After about three hours the poor boy fell asleep and was not

expected to ever regain consciousness. ‘Clara’ gently laid his head back on the ground.

"You are a miracle worker, Miss Barton." The doctor told her.

‘Clara’ knew she didn’t have the power over life or death situations, but for those she couldn’t save she would make their last journey less painful and more peaceful.She was always ready with bandages, clothes, blankets, food, drink, and encouragement for the wounded Union soldiers. However, she wished with all her might the war would stop, bringing an end to all the bloodshed and death. And, even though she was sometimes urged to accompany the wounded back to Washington on the train, ‘Clara refused to leave while they were in need of her help. She did not fear for her own safety, earning herself the title ‘Angel of the Battlefield’. It was Dr. James Dunn who said, "She was like an angel. An angel of the battlefield."

On the 2nd day of June in 1864, the day before the Battle of Cold Harbour, Grant had a staff meeting. He was appointed Commander and Chief of the United States Army on the 9th day of March this same year.

In August of 1864 twelve European nations sent delegates to Geneva, Switzerland and two United States observers were in attendance. But the United States wasn’t yet impressed by the efforts of the International Red Cross.

In Falmouth, Virginia near Christmas ‘Clara’ rested on the second floor of an old colonial mansion. In this twelve-room mansion, The Lacy House, they would care for the wounded.

George was the name of ‘Clara’s’ driver who delivered her and her supplies from one battlefield to another. He kept her company at Lacy House along with many assistants, because here ‘Clara’ feared the worst battle of all would take place. She and the others worked for days to turn the old mansion into a makeshift hospital.

The Confederate soldiers shot Union troops trying to cross the Rappahannock River from Fredricksburg to hastily make a bridge. ‘Clara’ could see the soldiers fall from her window facing the river. The wounded then started pouring in.

It was discovered the bridge, made under fire by Union soldiers, was for ‘Clara’ so she could cross into Fredricksburg to help Dr. Clarence Cutter who had sent for her. That was where she was needed most. And, just as she made her way to the other side of the bridge, a shell exploded searing a hole in her skirt and through the uniform of the officer accompanying her. (b-12) reported to be wounded and housed at Lacy House. General Lee never wanted to fight at Fredricksburg.

On the 11th of December Burnside occupied Fredricksburg and crossed the river with many of his troops. His numbers clearly outweighed those of Lee. Then, on the 13th Burnside delivered his assault. As evening approached the Union Army retreated with the loss of approximately thirteen thousand soldiers. Nearly thirteen hundred were

All throughout the Civil War ‘Clara’ heard of soldiers who were missing. And, nobody seemed to know what happened to them. ‘Clara’ thought, "Even when this war is over, it will not be over for some many families of the missing."

After the war ‘Clara’ started receiving numerous letters from relatives of missing soldiers. In March of 1865 she was granted permission by President Lincoln to start a letter-writing campaign in search of the missing soldiers. She appropriated $15,000.00 from Congress to help with her work with this first government bureau run by a woman. Approximately 200,000 Union soldiers alone were unaccounted for. Most of these were killed in battle, but their families needed to know where they died and were buried. She worked at the Office of Correspondence, never forgetting her promise to a young soldier of trying to locate his missing brother, all the while working with the suffragist movement. And, in the first several years following the Civil War, ‘Clara’ lectured about her experiences in the battlefield. Lists compiled by this bureau were sent to post offices across the country.

"Nearly 13,000 of 45,000 Union soldiers confined at Andersonville, the Confederate prison in Georgia, died from disease, filth, starvation, and exposure. After obtaining a list of dead from the prison, she began a missing soldier’s operation, which resulted in ons and husbands. Occasionally she found people who didn’t want to be found. Andersonville prison later became a National Cemetery." identifying and marking thousands of graves there. After publishing a list of their names, she received thousands of letters from mothers and wives seeking information on lost

People flocked to see the ‘Angel of the Battlefield’ and were usually very surprised to see how small she was. Curiosity to see the brave nurse who risked her life for that of the Union soldiers time and time again kept them coming to her lectures around the country. She told stories of the battles at Chantilly, Antietam, and Fredricksburg. She brought the terror of the battles to life for her audiences as if they were living the experiences with her. And, ‘Clara’ put the money made from her speeches to work helping the missing soldiers effort. And, on the 10th day of March in this same year ‘Clara’s’ brother, Stephen, died in North Carolina where he moved in 1856.

The day ‘Clara’ frequently prayed for arrived on the 9th day of April in 1865 when Robert E. Lee (Confederate Commander) surrendered to Grant (Commander of the Union Army), putting an end to the Civil War.

Approximately five days later everyone’s joy at the end of the Civil War was dampened by the shooting of president Lincoln at Ford’s theatre. The actor, John Wilkes Booth,was held responsible for murder, as the president died the next morning.

After ‘Clara’ went home to visit her sister, Sally, telling her she would keep her promise to president Lincoln to find the missing soldiers. So, with the funds from the lectures and help from Congress, finally, ‘Clara’ carried on with her mission. The Bureau for Missing Persons she started marked over 12,000 graves in the Andersonville Cemetery in Georgia.

By 1869 ‘Clara’ worked herself into a grave physical state. And, on her doctor’s orders, she traveled to Europe to rest and recuperate. She visited Switzerland where she learned about the International Committee of the Red Cross which was based in Geneva and founded by Jean Henri Dunant in 1863. Dunant was a Swiss philanthropist.

At the age of sixty ‘Clara’s’ beloved sister, Sally, and last living member of her immediate family died of cancer in 1870. The Grand Duchess of Baden, Louise, daughter of King Wilhelm of Germany came to see ‘Clara’ and solicit her help with the war. Even though her doctor told her she must rest for three years, and she had only rested one, ‘Clara’ couldn’t refuse a cry for help. So, 1870-71 ‘Clara’ helped at the battlefronts of the Franco-Prussian War. She gladly risked her health for the sake of others.

The American Association for the Relief of Misery on the Battlefield was founded during this time, adopting the red cross as its emblem. However, this organization disbanded in 1871 because of the United States not having ratified the Geneva Convention.

When she returned to the United States in 1873 ‘Clara’ began her crusade for the Treaty of Geneva and the American Red Cross. She moved back to Washington DC to lobby for her causes.

Then, in 1876 after first spending some time in Dansbury Sanitarium in Danville, she bought a thirty-eight room house in Glen Echo, Maryland which served as the headquarters of the American Red Cross for several years. Her nephew, Stephen F. Barton, visited her there with children of his friends, the Delaneys, who wanted to meet the famous nurse.

In 1877, prompted by the outbreak of war between Russia and Turkey, ‘Clara’ began convincing other individuals of the need to take an active part in the Red Cross’ work. In 1877, prompted by the outbreak of war between Russia and Turkey, ‘Clara’ began convincing other individuals of the need to take an active part in the Red Cross’ work.

 

On the 21st of May in 1881, with the help of a group of her friends, ‘Clara’ founded the American Red Cross. She remained its president until 1904 when some people felt it was time for the organization to be led by a larger, central administration and her ways of leadership were, often, openly criticized.

‘Clara’ Barton also wrote the American amendment to the Red Cross constitution, providing disaster relief in peace time as well as war. And, she encouraged the United States Government to ratify the Geneva Convention, which they finally did in 1882. They waited eighteen years due to fear of foreign entanglements. America was the 32nd nation to support the international treaty.

She remained in Glen Echo for the next eight years where she enjoyed continued good health.

On the 12th day of May ‘Clara’ stepped down and went to reside at her home in Glen

At the age of eighty, 1n 1888, ‘Clara’s’ brother, David, committed suicide. Earlier in his life he was married to a girl by the name of Julia.

In Johnston, Pennsylvania in 1889, and in the hurricane in the Sea Islands off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina in 1893, ‘Clara’ took charge of disaster relief.

In 1898 ‘Clara’ wrote her book ‘The Red Cross’.

Fishwick wrote, "If America came into a second springtime around 1900, Clara Barton moved into her Indian summer. Eighty years old now, she had helped shaped American history through three generations. Her enduring monument was the American red Cross. Born at her insistence, nourished by her fortitude, and matured through her service, it was, by 1900, a national institution."

In 1900 ‘Clara’ made her last public appearance in Galveston, Texas to help the flood victims. She wrote from there, "The tale is all too dreadful to recall. The uncoffined dead of the fifth part of the city lay there… lifeless bodies festering in the glaring heat of the September sun." Corpses dumped by the barge load into the Gulf of Mexico came back to haunt the living. The only solution was to burn the bodies. "Piled like cordwood, black and white together, irrespective of age, sex, or previous condition. The peculiar smell of burning flesh , so sickening at first, became horribly familiar within the next two months, when we lived it and breathed it, day after day." ‘Clara’ was so sick for a while after Galveston that she could not go the Red Cross meetings, so the board of directors acted in her absence.

Once while in Siboney the government wouldn’t allow ‘Clara’ and her workers to deliver food and supplies to the Cubans who were dying from yellow fever at nearby Guantamano. Since her supplies could not be received she had no choice but leave the starving people to perish.

Also, on the 6th day of June in 1900 a devoted admirer of ‘Clara’ and her Red Cross work, none other than President McKinley, permitted the incorporation of the American Red Cross Society.

During her years as president of the American Red Cross ‘Clara’ was in charge of relief work from things such as- famines, floods, tornadoes, pestilence, earthquakes, and war in the United States as well as world wide. She served as emissary for the Red Cross, addressing several international conferences. She realized the usefulness of the Red Cross to civilians as well as soldiers and wrote the clause that provides relief in calamities other than war. ‘Clara’ wrote ‘A Story of the Red Cross’ that same year. In 1906 she organized the National First Aid Association of America.

William E. Barton, a pastor and cousin of hers, said of ‘Clara’, "There was a certain firmness in her gait which indicated strength of character and resolute of purpose. She had no intention of growing old. She carried through life a pulse that was ten beats slower to the minute than that of a ordinary woman of her years, but her pulse beat steadily and reliably. Her physician, Dr. Julian B. Hubbell, was her almost daily companion for the last thirty years. Senility was further removed from her at ninety than most women at sixty."

On the second Sunday of May in 1910 ‘Clara’ spoke at the Reverend William E. Barton’s church in Oak Park, Illinois.

On the 21st of May in 1911 ‘Clara’ wrote her will.

On her 90th birthday, though her health from age was failing she managed to send a cheerful message to the press. It was said of her that she gradually relinquished her right to life with her body in good shape and organs sound, but her pulse steadily slowing.

In her late years ‘Clara’ became interested in astrology, horoscopes, seances, and reading of palms. She also played with the idea of spiritualism and those who read her horoscope told her that her lifeline was "almost endless".

At this time ‘Clara’ wrote books about the Red Cross, her Civil War experiences, and her childhood. She refused to remain idle even in her later years . She made a speech once in a while, gardened, repaired furniture, and learned to use a typewriter.

In 1911 ‘Clara’ recorded in her diary for her friends, "After all, aloneness is not the worst thing in the world." She was referring to the fact that she never chose to love back or marry any of her beaus in her earlier days. And, on Christmas Day, her 90th birthday, in 1911 she wrote, "Please deliver for me a message of peace and goodwill to all the world for Christmas. I am feeling much better today, and have every hope of spending a pleasant and joyful Christmas." However, she only wished for the return of the springtime. She had pasted in a scrapbook "The Old Soldier". It went -"Loose me, loose me, and let me go." The old man faintly cried, His face was pale, but all aglow For Christ unseen was by his side. "Loose me," he cried "and let me go."

Towards the last of her life and death struggle with pneumonia ‘Clara’ reverted back to the Civil War experiences she had. On the 10th day of April in 1912 she opened her eyes and said: "I saw death as it is on the battlefield… I saw the surgeons coming, to much needed by all to give special attention to any one. Once again I stood by them and witnessed those soldiers bearing their soldier pains, limbs being sawed off without opiates being taken, or even a bed to lie on. I crept around once more, trying to give them at least a drink of water to cool their parched lips, and I heard them at last speak of mothers and wives and sweethearts, but never a murmur or complaint."

 

On the 12th day of April in 1912 America lost a great humanitarian. Clarissa Harlowe Barton who never took the time to marry or have children of her own succumbed to complications caused by a cold, in the form of double pneumonia, at the age of ninety-one. It was nine o’clock in the morning when she passed on. The small young girl who demanded attention from the students in her class had grown to be applauded by emperors and kings. She had dealt with every president from Abraham Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt effectively, but her most endearing part of life had nothing to do with politics. During disasters is when ‘Clara’s’ true colors and accomplishments shown through. Her single-handed accomplishments were many and she was revered by most everyone who had known her during her lifetime.

The Detroit Free Press wrote shortly after her death, "She was perhaps the most perfect incarnation of mercy the modern world has known."

Clarissa Harlowe Barton was a great heroine, patriot, philanthropist, and author who gave everything she had to people in need. Her books are- ‘The Red Cross: A History of This Remarkable International Movement in the Interest of Humanity’(1898), ‘The Red Cross in Peace and War’ (1899), ‘A Story of the Red Cross: Glimpses of Field Work’ (1904), and ‘The Story of My Childhood’ (1907).

She led a long and well-productive life. As with many schoolteachers, ‘Clara’ considered her students her children. She was, in her day, courted by many with one thought of different men as possible lovers, no one of them measured up to her ideal as a husband." One even sending her ten thousand dollars after having struck it rich, but she found her work more fruitful. Stephen F. Barton once wrote, "My aunt said to me at one time I must not think she had never known any experience of love. She said that she had had her romances and love affairs like other girls; but that in her young womanhood, though she ‘The Angel of the Battlefield’ is buried in her hometown of North Oxford, Massachusetts with the Red Cross flag as her monument. No one in America can think of the Red Cross without her name coming immediately to mind.

In 1984 the Red Cross started a transplant service to bring bone, skin, and organs to the needy. Today one hundred and thirty-five nations have Red Cross Societies. Each has their own separate program, but all share the same main goals. The American Red Cross boasts over ten million volunteers which include blood donors and students.

Late in 1997a regional historian with the National Park Service, Gary Scott, discovered records of ‘Clara’s’ work in the abandoned attic of a government building where her Missing Persons Bureau was housed at one time. A lot of valuable records and relics were rescued from demolition. The National Park Service donated the finds to the Ford Theatre for putting on display.

Clarissa Harlowe Barton’s childhood family farm is now the ‘Clara Barton Birthplace Museum’ which opened its doors the summer of 1998 courtesy of The Barton Center for Diabetes Education.

‘Clara’ Barton’s great success is explained graphically by William E. Barton- "While extremely modest, Clara Barton was far from being a prude. She was never terrified by gossip… In 1884, when she was on her steamboat, ‘Josh V. Throop’, assisting in the Ohio River floods, the boat one night tied up at a landing, and a goodly number of people came on board. Among the rest were two young women. One of the prominent ladies of the town found opportunity to whisper to her that these were young women whose social standing was not above question. ‘Then they will need help all the more,’ she said; and she gave those two girls an hour of her evening. Such warnings she often received, and…. She invariably reacted in the other direction.

It is also said she never took on any work without first carefully thinking it through as to where it was to end and how it was going to be provided for. She made decisions promptly during emergency situations, but generally worked slowly. Even those who disputed her leadership qualities know her legacy is her work that still lives and carries on in her name.

 

 

Copyright 1999 Linda Marie ‘Pendle’ Brainard
Published on the World Wide Web by "www.storymania.com"