It’s one of the most familiar symbols in the world. The white flag flying high above the wreckage of disaster, its simple logo a sign of hope for those left wounded and devastated. It’s the Red Cross, and it was launched in America by Clara Barton.
Clara was the youngest of five children, and was a young woman when the Civil War broke out. Though she had no prior nursing experience, when soldiers flooded into Washington after the Baltimore riots, Clara organized a relief program. This was the beginning of her lifelong career as a nurse and humanitarian.
Noticing that many wounded soldiers suffered because of a lack of medical supplies, she devoted herself to fixing this problem. Advertising for donations to purchase supplies, Clara not only raised the money needed , but distributed the supplies herself. Her operation was so successful that she was given permission to travel with army ambulances, which she did for the duration of the war.
After the war she traveled to Switzerland, where she became aware of the International Red Cross. Believing the U.S. would benefit greatly from this organization, she began a crusade to establish the Red Cross in America. She worked tirelessly; giving speeches, writing articles and petitioning Washington. She reminded everyone that the Red Cross was not only helpful in war, but also during natural disasters such as droughts, floods and fire.
Her efforts were rewarded in 1881, when the American Association of the Red Cross was founded
So, the next time you’re watching coverage of a disaster in America, and you see people being aided as that white flag with the red cross flies above them, remember to thank a woman. Thank Clara Barton.