The Angel of the Battlefield: Clara Barton

Abigail Schwing, senior

The Red Cross has been able to provide disaster relief for over a hundred years, but how did it all begin? The Red Cross was brought to America by a lovely lady named Clara Barton. She was born in Oxford, Massachusetts on Christmas Day in 1821clara. At the age of 15, she became a teacher and ended up opening a free public school in New Jersey.  When the Civil War began in 1861, Clara Barton rushed to help soldiers. At first she was gathering supplies, but she couldn’t stand on the side.

“I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while our soldiers can stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them,” she said

Her motivation led her to volunt
eer as a nurse and care for many wounded soldiers. As Barton participated in the Battle of Antietam, she was served a close call as a bullet tore her sleeve and killed the man she was attending to. This is where she gained her nickname of “The Angel of the Battlefield.” When the war resolved, she started her job at the War Department. Barton worked on reuniting families of soldiers and she later gathered crowds for lectures about her war experiences.

Barton believed, “Economy, prudence, and a simple life are the sure masters of need, and will often accomplish that which, their opposites, with a fortune at hand, will fail to do.”  Barton lived by this belief and years later, she travelled to Europe and worked at the International Red Cross during the Franco-Prussian War. This inspired her to strive for a branch of this organizaclara2tion to be brought to America. In 1861, Barton was successful and ultimately became the founder and first president of the American Red Cross. Without Clara Barton, millions of people struck by disaster would not be able to get back on their feet.

What does that mean for us as nursing in training? Clara serves as an inspiration to nurses old and new. She was fearless and helped some of the most vulnerable patients. She experienced war and death, but didn’t let the doom hinder her care. She thrived off the challenges that faced her every day. Even though many of us will not face the brutality of battle lines, we can look for inspiration in the actions of Barton. Her work ethic and will to help the greater good is something that every nurse should strive for not only in their career but in their life.  Barton’s impact on community health is still felt today. The Red Cross has expanded since Barton’s founding days, but the goal is still the same. It allows people affected by disasters to have a sense of relief, that would not be possible without the determination of Barton. Without pioneers like Barton paving the way, modern nursing would not be the amazing field it is today!


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