Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by dominon. dominon Wonders, “Who was Clara Barton?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, dominon!

Clarissa “Clara” Barton was born on Christmas (December 25) in 1821 in Oxford, Massachusetts. She is widely known in America as a great humanitarian.

Barton’s career in helping the sick began when she was a child. Her brother David was her first patient. He fell from a rafter in the family barn when Barton was just 11 years old. She stayed by his side for three years, learning how to give him all his medicines.

Clara Barton was a real pioneer in many ways. She began teaching school, despite the fact that most teachers were men at that time. Later, she became one of the first women employed by the federal government.

In 1861, the American Civil War began. At the time, Barton lived in Washington, D.C. She was working as a clerk in the United States Patent Office. She soon realized that the young, poorly equipped soldiers of the new war needed many forms of help. They had a hard time getting the medical supplies, food, and other items they needed.

Barton didn’t wait for others to step in. Instead, she collected needed items on her own. She asked the public for donations and learned how to store and distribute them to soldiers. Barton also helped in other ways. She read to soldiers, wrote letters for them, and prayed with them.

Barton soon learned that there were even more serious needs to be met out on the battlefields. She asked government and military leaders for permission to bring her volunteer services and supplies to the places they were needed most.

Barton was eventually granted permission. After the 1862 Battle of Cedar Mountain, she arrived at a Virginia field hospital. She came at midnight with a wagon full of supplies. A thankful surgeon at that hospital later wrote, “I thought that night if heaven ever sent out a[n]… angel, she must be one—her assistance was so timely.”

From that time on, Barton was called “the angel of the battlefield.” She selflessly served soldiers amid some of the worst battles of the Civil War. Barton often put her own life in danger. She was willing to travel to the front lines even in the heat of battle.

In 1869, Barton went to Europe. There, she learned about the International Committee of the Red Cross. Upon her return to the United States in 1881, she founded the American Red Cross. Her vision for the American Red Cross was to provide aid in times of natural disasters and wars.

She led the American Red Cross for the next 23 years. Barton always went to where the need was greatest. In 1896, she traveled to Istanbul to respond to the humanitarian crisis in the Ottoman Empire. She also opened the first American International Red Cross headquarters in Beijing, China.

Barton even worked in hospitals in Cuba when she was 77 years old! Her last field mission as president of the American Red Cross was to help the victims of the 1900 Galveston hurricane. She did not retire from the American Red Cross until she was 83.

Today, the American Red Cross continues Barton’s mission. With the help of thousands of volunteers, it provides relief to victims of disasters. The Red Cross also helps people prevent, prepare for, and respond to all sorts of emergencies. Many people find that it’s a great place to volunteer their time and efforts.

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1

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