9/29/16: A Day at Red Cross Headquarters
By Jean Johnson, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor and founding dean (retired) at the George Washington University School of Nursing, member of the Red Cross National Nursing Committee
Today we walked up the marble steps to the stately national American Red Cross. Entering the Board of Governors Hall was an emotional experience. Banners reflecting nursing and the Red Cross were at each end of an exquisite room that featured Tiffany windows depicting the theme of “ministry to the sick and wounded through sacrifice.” The Women’s Relief Corps of the North and the United Daughters of the Confederacy—two Civil War organizations—each gave $5,000 for the stained glass windows.
The setting provided the backdrop for stories of the Civil War told by Dr. Robert Slawson, focusing on the role of women physicians and nurses. Marian Moser Jones provided a history of the Red Cross as well as the context for Clara Barton’s work leading to the formation of the Red Cross. Nursing scholar Sandra Lewenson gave an account of nursing service and public health in the Red Cross up to the 1950s. Linda MacIntyre detailed the exciting work of nursing and health in the Red Cross today.
In addition, David Meltzer, General Counsel and Chief International Officer at the American Red Cross, gave a view of the organization’s international work focusing on prevention. He noted that the death toll from cyclones in Bangladesh had previously been as high as 500,000, but with cooperation among the many Red Cross or Red Crescent international efforts, citizens of Bangladesh were equipped with a simple warning system and afterward less than 50 died in cyclones.
A remarkable day of new perspectives on the Red Cross was completed when Gail McGovern, the president and CEO of the American Red Cross, gave us a view of where the Red Cross had been in 2008, including a huge deficit, and where it is today, when it is on much more solid financial ground.
McGovern noted that the mission and values of the Red Cross have not changed, but the delivery is more and more guided by sophisticated yet practical information systems. She spoke eloquently of her love for the Red Cross and all the staff and volunteers. She knows change is the future and takes heart in Clara Barton’s quote:
“I have an almost complete disregard of precedent, and a faith in the possibility of something better. It irritates me to be told how things have always been done.”
9/30/16: Ford’s Theatre
By Linda MacIntyre, PhD, RN, chief nurse American Red Cross
We wrapped up the D.C. portion of the Clara Barton Tour with a trip to Ford’s Theatre. We’d heard earlier of Clara B’s petitions to President Lincoln’s office on behalf of missing soldiers. Today we heard about Lincoln’s work to abolish slavery, saw where he was shot in the Ford’s Theatre, and the place where he later died.
Onward to Geneva
As might be expected of tour participants interested in Clara Barton, many of the individuals on this trip devote much time and energy working to change systems to improve health locally and globally. Some said goodbye; others boarded a bus to the airport and will meet up again in Geneva. We all know much more about Clara. A favorite story is when Annie Bartholomew described how she hung the portraits of rivals Mabel Thorpe Boardman and Clara Barton in the Red Cross boardroom. Annie instructed them to “Work it out, girls!” and closed the door.
(Editor’s note: All posts thus far from the ongoing Clara Barton Tour can be found here.)