Clara Barton

Clara Harlowe Barton was born on December 25, 1821, in Oxford, Massachusetts. She was the youngest of five children, and was educated at home. Barton became a school teacher at the age of 15, and later established a free public school in Bordentown, New Jersey. Before the Civil War, she had no medical training, and her only medical experience was nursing her brother for two years. When the Civil War began, Barton was working for the US Patent Office in Washington, D.C. After the Baltimore riots, the 6th Massachusetts Regiment came to the city, and Barton organized a program for the relief of the soldiers. She began a campaign to raise money for medical supplies, and the US Surgeon General gave her permission to accompany army ambulances and distribute "comforts for the sick and wounded" and help nurse the injured. Barton worked with the sick and wounded for three years, including those at the Wilderness and Bermuda Hundred. Appointed superintendent of nurses in Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler's command, she went on to organize a program to locate soldiers missing in action. By interviewing Union soldiers who returned from Confederate prisons, she was able to establish the status of missing soldiers, and notify their families. In 1881, Barton founded the American Red Cross, which performed many of the tasks she herself had done during the Civil War. She resigned as head of the American Red Cross in 1904, and retired to her home a Glen Echo, outside Washington, D.C. Barton died there on April 12, 1912.