Clara Barton (1821-1912), Founder of the Red Cross

Innovator in Nursing Profile: Clara Barton (1821-1912), Founder of the Red Cross

Clarissa Harlow (Clara) Barton, was a pioneer and innovator in transforming health care. Clara Barton started initially working as a teacher and then became one of the first women employees in the federal government. Soon later, Barton began to see an opportunity to support American soldiers during the Civil War. Clara started her efforts by working to gather medical supplies for the soldiers (e.g., bandages, food, and clothing). However, Clara soon found herself working to aid the soldiers on the front lines. Barton spent time gathering supplies and bringing them to the front lines. In one instance, she was able to support the surgeons on the front line with replenishments when they had run out of supplies. Clara Barton’s efforts earned her the nickname, ‘Angel of the Battlefield’.

“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.” ~ Clara Barton

Following the Civil War, she traveled to Europe and began working with the International Red Cross organization during the Franco-Prussian War. Barton found herself working to perform similar duties to the soldiers in the way she had done before. Upon returning home to the United States, Barton advocated for joining the International Red Cross. Several months later, Congress had yet to join the organization. Then in 1881, Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross organization. Barton built and led the organization for the next 23 years. The American Red Cross remains to be an essential organization in our modern day.



We are so lucky to have had Clara Barton, such a pioneer and innovator, who saw the need to support others and in the words of the American Red Cross’s mission, “prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors”. (
Happy Nurses Week!