Friday, November 16, 2007

The Angel of the Battlefield

My friend today is Clara Barton.

She was born in Oxford, Massachusetts, the youngest of 5 children. Always very smart, she was, however, painfully shy. She was schooled at home by her siblings, who were much older than her. Her two sisters were school teachers in trade. When she was eleven, her brother had an accident, and she stayed by his side, nursing him herself for two years, even learning how to handle leeches. (yech.). To further her interest in nursing, her Aunt was a notable midwife.
At 17, she became a teacher in her own right. She opened two different schools, and the second one became so large it needed a "headmaster". Unfortunately, the town council hired a man for the job, not the woman who started the school. By this time she'd been teaching for over ten years. Frustrated,she left, and moved to Washington DC, and worked as a clerk in the U.S. Patent office.
The Civil war started, and Clara quit her job, and began to see to the wounded. She started by getting, and giving supplies, then quickly branched out to riding in the "ambulances" that followed the battles. She even brought her own supplies. She spent the entire Civil War nursing the wounded in the battlefields. After the war, President Lincoln put her in charge of searching out missing Union Soldiers. All together, she was responsible for tracking down 30,000 men. She also traveled the country lecturing on her experiences during the war, and supporting both the Suffragist movements, and the Civil Rights movements. However, her health was severely debilitated related to her hard years of nursing on battlefields, and she ended up taking a "restful trip" to Geneva, Switzerland. There, she saw the "International Committee of the Red Cross", and got involved with them. Disturbed that the United States did not have one of these, she came home, and with sheer tenacity, started one up! It is known, obviously, today, as the "Red Cross". She was president of the Red Cross for 26 years. Then, the organization turned on her (in my opinion) and she resigned because they felt they needed someone newer, and more progressive to be their leader. She stepped down gracefully, and went to her home, where she died, some years later, after complications of a "cold". (I'm guessing she had pneumonia, myself.)
Here is a quote from Clara that pretty much sums it up:

"You must never so much as think whether you like it or not, whether it is bearable or not. You must never think of anything except the need, and how to meet it".

I wonder how many times Clara rolled in her grave after Katrina hit?


sybil law said...

Good, good woman.
Almost named Gilda Clara, too.

David in DC said...

Awesome choice.

Bubblewench said...

Very cool. I didn't know about that woman.