Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Clara Barton, Humanitarian visionary

Humanitarian visionary
 Clara Barton (1821-1912) taught school and worked as a clerk in the U.S. Patent Office. With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, at the age of 40, Barton embarked on her life's work and vision. During the Civil War she began to assemble and distribute supplies to Union soldiers. Knowing that nurses were urgently needed at the battlefield, she went into the field. At the famous battles of Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Fairfax Court House, Fredricksburg, Antietam, and the Wilderness, she assisted the surgeons in stitching up wounds and in bloody amputations. Clara Barton gained national acclaim as “the angel of the battlefield.” After the war she coordinated a national effort to locate soldiers who were missing in action. 
Also at that time, she was responsible for establishing the first National Cemetery at Arlington, where she personally marked twelve thousand graves. 
 Barton threw herself into relief work in Europe and was impressed with the International Red Cross. Although not permitted to work with the International Red Cross because she was a woman, she volunteered as an independent relief worker in Strasbourg, France, during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). She was restricted to only providing aid to civilians because the German government would not permit her to assist its soldiers. 
 On May 21, 1881, many dignitaries (including Frederick Douglass) joined Barton at her own modest residence in Washington, D.C. to develop the American Association of the Red Cross, which later became the American Red Cross. Created to serve America in peace and in war, during times of disaster and national calamity, Barton’s organization took its service beyond that of the International Red Cross Movement by adding disaster relief to battlefield assistance. She served as the organization’s volunteer president until 1904. Today, the organization’s actions, guided by its dedication to humanity and a desire to promote mutual understanding, friendship,cooperation, and lasting peace amongst all peoples, follow these fundamental principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity, and universality.  Barton also lobbied tirelessly for the United States ratification of the Geneva Convention, also known as the Treaty of Geneva. On March 1, 1882, President Chester A. Arthur signed the treaty. The Senate ratified it on March 16, 1882. The United States was the 32nd nation to sign the document, agreeing to protect the wounded during wartime.

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