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CLARA BARTON (1821-1912)

Her Life

The Red Cross in the United States is inseparably linked with the name of Clara Barton, who organized it. Her lifelong efforts to relieve distress proved her to be a great-hearted woman of unfailing resourcefulness.

She spent several years as a teacher and as a government clerk in Washington, D.C. During the War Between the States she volunteered as a nurse. She was fearless, even during battles she carried food and bandages to wounded soldiers. At the end of the war she was not content to live on her reputation. She started to organize a bureau of records as a help in the problem of accounting for soldiers who were listed as "missing in action." She succeeded in having the graves of more than 12,000 soldiers, buried at Andersonville Georgia, identified and marked.

In 1871 the Franco-Prussian War called Clara Barton to France, where again she frequently worked under fire. She gave out supplies to the starving in Strasburg and to the hungry mobs in Paris during the siege.

Clara Barton

Clara Barton returned to the United States in 1873 and began to urge United States membership in the Red Gross. The Red Cross had been founded in Switzerland as a result of the Geneva Convention of 1864. She was finally successful in 1881 and was chosen first president of the American Red Cross Society.

It is due to Clara Barton that the Red Cross is now a relief agency in times of peace as well as in war. She herself had charge of peacetime relief work in many parts of the world. Clara Barton was there after the yellow-fever epidemic in Florida in 1887; the flood at Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1889; the Russian famine in 1891; the Armenian massacre in 1896; and the Galveston hurricane in 1900. Her work continues at the site of her birth in Oxford, Massachusetts, where the UUWF camps for diabetic girls are located.

Jean Brockley

In the midst of her busy life she wrote several valuable books on the work of the Red Cross.

Her Religion

Clara Barton and her parents attended the Universalist Church in Oxford, Massachusetts. In 1905 she wrote a statement of her religious beliefs to her friend, Mrs. Norman Thrasher, Lakewood, Ohio.

My dear friend and sister:

Your belief that I am a Universalist is as correct as your greater belief that you are one yourself, a belief in which all who are privileged to possess it rejoice. In my case, it was a great gift, like St. Paul, I 'was born free', and saved the pain of reaching it through years of struggle and doubt.

My father was a leader in the building of the church in which Hosea Ballow preached his first dedication sermon. Your historic records will show that the old Huguenot town of Oxford, Mass. erected one of, if not the first Universalist Church in America. In this town I was born; in this church I was reared. In all its reconstructions and remodelings I have taken a part, and I look anxiously for a time in the near future when the busy world will let me once more become a living part of its people, praising God for the advance in the liberal faith of the religions of the world today, so largely due to the teachings of this belief.

Give, I pray you, dear sister, my warmest congratulations to the members of your society. My best wishes for the success of your annual meeting, and accept my thanks most sincerely for having written me.

Fraternally yours, (Signed) Clara Barton

Glen Echo, Md., March 12, 1905

Birthplace North Oxford, Mass.
Erika Seiffer

May 25, 1974


The International Red Cross was founded in Switzerland as a result of the Geneva Convention of 1864, to care for the sick and wounded in war, and to secure the neutrality of nurse's hospitals, etc. It was and is active also in relieving suffering occasioned by pestilence, floods, fire and other calamities.

The American Red Cross, established in 1882 by Clara Barton, is a branch of the International Red Cross.

International Red Cross
Founded 1864
Internatioinal Red Cross
Issued 1952
(Picturing the Globe Sun and Cross)


International Red Cross Centenary
Red Cross Centenary
Issued 1963
(Picturing Cuban Refugees and Red Cross Flag)
Erika Seiffer

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