Clara Barton (1821- 1912) demonstrated her nurturing spirit early when, at age eleven, she acted as her injured brother’s devoted nurse. At seventeen, she became a teacher and later moved to Washington, DC, to work at the U.S. Patent Office. Responding to the needs of the injured troops arriving in the city in 1861, Clara established an agency to raise provisions and distribute supplies to troops. She became known as the “angel of the battlefield” as she worked to help troops on both sides of the war. She went to the battle front to distribute supplies and accompany sick transports. Her efforts to aid others extended to civilians through her establishment of a Bureau of Records for missing men, helping families locate their loved ones after the war.
Following the war, Clara travelled to Europe, where she met members of the European Society of the Red Cross. She saw the value of their work, learning how they readied supplies and provided training in order to save lives and relieve suffering of soldiers in battle. Upon returning to the United States in 1881, Clara founded the American Association of the Red Cross, and served as the first president. Her legacy endures today as the American Red Cross continues to provide emergency assistance and disaster relief around the world.