STORIES
Angels Heroes

Clara Barton

by Alex from San Diego


In a time where war and bloodshed constantly threatened people’s lives and safety, one woman put aside her feelings and securities to help both on and off the battlefield. She opened the doors to a new and innovated way of education, nursing, and healthcare. Clara Barton, an American humanitarian, not only demonstrated selflessness through her long and tireless days and nights nursing wounded soldiers, but also through her ability to go beyond her call of duty and make a difference in our already changing country. By founding the American Red Cross, Clara Barton has inspired countless people to give to those in need. Her self-sacrifice, determination and inspiration to others make her a true American hero.


Born Christmas Day, 1812 in North Oxford, Massachusetts, Clarissa Harlowe Barton, daughter of Captain Stephen and Sarah (Stone) Barton, was an extremely shy girl. By age fifteen her family perceived that it would be beneficial for Clara to become a teacher. By 1850, Barton continued with her teaching and moved to Bordentown, New Jersey, at a time when New Jersey charged students to go to school. Barton then offered to teach without pay if the children were permitted to go to school without cost. The school board accepted her offer and the school became populated with students eager to receive an education. She later resigned as a teacher and moved to Washington D.C where she became a clerk for the U.S. Patent Office and became the first woman to hold a government post. Once the Civil War began, Barton helped nurse wounded soldiers; but that wasn’t enough for her. She pleaded to get on the frontline to care for the injured soldiers on the battlefield. Her determination soon paid off and was allowed on the frontline. Once the Civil War ended, President Abraham Lincoln permitted Barton to work with the prisoners of war to help discover missing and dead soldiers. After her task was completed, she had succeeded at finding about ten percent of missing soldiers and formulating a method of identification, Barton’s feeble health put a stop to her activities and she traveled to Switzerland seeking a cure. While there she stumbled upon the International Red Cross in 1869. Though her purpose was to find help for herself, Barton volunteered as an aid in France during the Franco-Prussian War. Upon returning, Barton was determined to start an American branch of the Red Cross, and later succeeded. She died April 12, 1912 in Glen Echo, Maryland.

Working tirelessly on injured soldiers while bullets from rifles pierced through the air, Barton demonstrated self-sacrifice for the greater good of her men. During the Civil War, Clara was eager to help soldiers who were injured and in dire need of medical attention. Barton was soon allowed a pass and headed straight for the battlefield; she had no interest in her own safety, only in caring for the troops, “Barton cooked for, fed, and bandaged the wounded while bullets pierced the air around her; twice, shell fragments ripped through her clothing”(“Barton, Clara (1821-1912)” UXL Biographies). Barton’s persistence and will made her fearless even through some of the most horrific and tragic moments she had faced while on the battlefield. Many soldiers’ lives were rescued due to her hard work and actions. “During the remainder of the war she displayed great courage and perseverance in getting supplies to the front. The horrors of the battlefield did not faze her. Thousands of soldiers remembered fondly this slight, seemingly frail woman ministering to the wounded during the battle, applying to her the sobriquet “Angel of the Battlefield”” (Zalimas). Barton’s “never back down” approach to this situation made her a perfect candidate as a hero. She went into the battle front knowing how great the risk was, but “rather than as a field nurse, her greatest service was in securing provisions for the relief of suffering and in getting them to where they were needed properly” (Zalimas).


Her self sacrifice was not the only characteristic that made her a hero, but she also was able to exceed the “norm” given the circumstances. Barton’s determination to not only help students receive an education without pay, but also help hundreds of families find missing loved ones at the end of the Civil War. Barton soon moved from her small town of Oxford to Bordentown, New Jersey, at the time, “free public schools were a rarity, and Barton offered to serve three months without pay if the town would make the school free for all the town’s children. Overcoming powerful opposition, she personally persuaded the town’s leaders to support her experiment. It was such a success that a larger schoolhouse had to be built and an assistant teacher hired” (Zalimas). Barton demonstrated how she overcame the challenge of the lack of money and educated students to the point where her plan had become a success. She also made a difference by helping find lost soldiers. After the Civil War, “Barton won President Abraham Lincoln’s (1809-1865) approval to work with prisoners of war and to devise a system for identifying the dead. Over half of the Union men killed were identified. More than 190,000 graves were unmarked. Understanding the extremely difficult task, Barton created a method of identification…. When the project ended, Barton had identified twenty-two thousand men, but still less than 10 percent of the missing” (“Barton, Clara (1821-1921)” UXL Biographies). Her persistent ways made her an eligible hero.


Barton’s persistence and selflessness has been a huge inspiration to men and women. “After a period of rest, Barton went to Washington D.C., where she became a clerk in the U.S. Patent Office. This was another ‘first’ for Barton, as no other American woman had ever held such a governmental post” (“Barton, Clarissa Harlowe (1821-1912)”). Barton inspired many women that they could achieve greatness and set the stage for the future. Her motivational speeches with senators and congressmen often, “reduced her audience to tears with her highly charged, emotional talks” (“Barton, Clara (1821-1912)” DISCovering Biography). Barton’s inspirational ways made her fit to be a hero.

Her selflessness, persistence and inspiration give her the ability of a hero. She demonstrated that things in life don’t come easily but the feeling of accomplishment is reward enough. Clara Barton has proven herself to be a true American hero due to her inspiration, dedication and self sacrifice; actions that should be lived by every day.

Page created on 5/17/2010 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 5/17/2010 12:00:00 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.