Clara Harlowe Barton is one of the most celebrated women in American history. She is famous for supporting the injured during the Civil War, and for establishing the American Red Cross.
Clara was born in Massachusetts and started her career as a school teacher. She established the first public free school in Bordentown, New Jersey, but wasn’t allowed to become the head teacher – the role instead going to a man.
She decided to leave her role as an educator, and moved to Washington, D.C. to take a job as a clerk at the U.S. Patent Office – a rare opportunity for a woman at that time. When the Civil War broke out on April 12, 1861, Clara asked for the Government to bring medical supplies to the injured, whilst she tended to them in the field. When the war was over, Clara took charge of the Missing Soldiers Office – the first woman to head a Government office -and was responsible for identifying 22,000 missing men.
Clara managed to succeed in getting the U.S. to sign the 1864 Geneva Convention, and for her country to become a member of the International Red Cross. She had seen how the organization benefited nations in Europe, and went on to become the founder of the American Red Cross, and worked for decades to persuade the U.S. government to recognize the organization.
President Obama’s proclamation for Women’s History Month 2014 can be found here.