Clara Barton 2016: From Civil War to Red Cross to Today

Oil painting of Clara Barton by Mathilde Leisenring, 1937.

Oil painting of Clara Barton by Mathilde Leisenring, 1937.

One woman’s desire to serve during the Civil War eventually led to the founding of the American Red Cross. Based on the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, unity, independence, voluntary service, and universality, the American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement, which provides protection and assistance to people affected by disasters and conflicts. It has always drawn to service both nurses and nursing students alike.

Red Cross nurses and other health professionals continue the work of Clara Barton today, providing leadership and service across the organization. The vast majority are volunteers.

AJN is hosting a series of blog posts by nurses on a tour tracing the footsteps of the founder of the American Red Cross, Clara Barton. In the Washington, DC, area (Sept. 26 to Oct. 1), the Clara Barton Study tour will visit sites such as Antietam and the American Red Cross National Disaster Operations Headquarters. The second part of the tour, in Geneva, Switzerland (Oct. 1 to Oct. 6), will explore the ongoing work of the International Red Cross and other humanitarian and health organizations.
arc-logoJust as Barton was moved to action during time of war and long thereafter, it is my/our hope to bring you along through regular blog posts from tour participants on a journey studying Barton’s life’s work, the organization she started (at a time when only men were able to vote and pursue their dreams and careers), and its international counterparts. We hope to similarly engage and motivate you to not only learn more about Clara Barton and the Red Cross, but about opportunities to engage through volunteering and donating to this ongoing mission. Welcome aboard! Plan to follow on Twitter with the hashtag #ClaraB2016. New posts will be added below as they appear.

  • Susan B. Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) senior advisor for nursing, and director, Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, American Red Cross volunteer national ambassador
  • Linda M. MacIntyre, PhD, RN, chief nurse, American Red Cross |Volunteer Services | American Red Cross National Headquarters

10 Lessons Learned from Clara Barton’s Life and Work

October 13th, 2016|

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, and Linda […]

In Geneva, a Wider Perspective on Clara Barton’s Humanitarian Vision

October 12th, 2016|

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, and Linda MacIntyre, PhD, RN, chief nurse American Red Cross

To Geneva, Oct. 2-3: The Red Cross Mission Is International

Red Cross and Red Crescent Symbols Outside ICRC Museum, Geneva Red Cross and Red Crescent Symbols outside ICRC Museum, Geneva

The Clara Barton Study Tour was the idea and passion of Sue Hassmiller. As you may know from the most recent post in this series, Sue and her husband Bob were prevented from coming on this trip due to Bob’s tragic bicycle accident. Sue had insisted that Geneva needed to be part of the tour because it’s where she learned of Henri Dunant’s work to create the international Red Cross in Geneva. With Bob’s steady support in the planning phase, Sue had somehow made the trip a reality, with the second leg of the tour taking place here in Geneva.

The study tour in Geneva and the organizations we visited on our first two days there were in complete harmony with Bob’s commitment to the Red Cross. While Bob gave his time and energy to the American Red Cross, his spirit of giving clearly crossed international borders into war-torn cities where the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) brings humanitarian aid to victims of conflict—both to the civilian population as well as wounded fighters. The ICRC is led by the dynamic and caring director-general, Yves Daccord (in group photo below), who not only plans for current needs but looks to the future to plan for the future type of war that will be shaped by new technologies such as robots and artificial intelligence. […]

The Call to Service Is Personal: From Vietnam to Red Cross Volunteer

October 2nd, 2016|

Sue and Bob Hassmiller. Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross. Photo courtesy of American Red Cross

This post was written by Bob Hassmiller the day before a serious bicycle accident, when he was looking forward to beginning the Clara Barton Tour. He did not make it to Geneva, and died two days after we published this post. The post shows the type of man Bob was—creative, thoughtful, caring, and committed to the Red Cross. We are publishing this post to honor Bob and Sue Hassmiller (pictured at right) and give voice to his commitment to the Red Cross.

Henri Dunant’s Awakening

Geneva is perhaps as beautiful and tranquil a spot as any on earth. We’ve looked forward to going there to explore how this unique city became the nexus between overwhelming disaster and the hope (and action) that alleviates that disaster.

Just as in the first part of the Clara Barton Tour, we learned that the ideals and actions of determined, caring, dedicated, and sometimes flawed individual like Clara Barton could result in the founding of a great humanitarian organization, the American Red Cross, so too do we review the efforts of her European contemporary Henri Dunant.

Henri Dunant at Solferino, pantier unknown Henri Dunant at Solferino, painter unknown, via Wikimedia Commons

As major military engagements go, the 1859 battle in Solferino, Italy, is now barely a footnote. Approximately 170,000 Austrians and their allies fought 150,000 combined Italian and French troops. A one-day battle, it left about 40,000 casualties and blocked the route of a young Swiss entrepreneur, named Henri Dunant, on his way with a business proposal to Napoleon. This Swiss neutral, like Clara Barton during the Civil War, threw himself into the overwhelming job of trying to organize local relief efforts and relieve the terrible suffering that confronted him. On that battlefield he became known to both sides as “the Gentleman in White.”

‘Would It Not Be Possible?’

Like Barton, Dunant not only cared personally for those who suffered, he worked tirelessly to help all others who suffered. In his book A Memory of Solferino, which he himself paid to publish, he asked:

“Would it not be possible in time of peace and quiet to form relief societies for the purpose of having care given to the wounded in wartime by zealous, devoted, and thoroughly qualified volunteers?”

And he further laid the basis for both the Geneva Conventions and the International Red Cross. He then sent his book to every major ruler in the world.

Great ideals are only successful when dedicated individuals sacrifice their time, talent, finances, and energy to put those ideals in action, as Dunant and others did in Geneva in 1863 to found the International Committee for the Relief of the Wounded. Dunant worked tirelessly to implement his vision and earned the very first Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

We will learn more about Dunant and the current work of the Red Cross as we visit the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Red Cross Museum, and the United Nations.

From Vietnam to Red Cross Volunteer

logo2For me, interest in this tour and the call to service is personal. My international military experience was bookended by experiences of the Red Cross. In 1969, I landed in Vietnam as a 22-year-old combat platoon sergeant and received what I would later learn was a comfort kit from a Red Cross worker. […]

At American Red Cross HQ and Ford’s Theatre, Vital History, Past and Present

October 2nd, 2016|

9/29/16: A Day at Red Cross Headquarters

American Red Cross National Headquarters, Washington, DC National 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. […]

Clara Barton Tour Update: From Mercury as Medicine to Modern Disaster Response

October 1st, 2016|

The two Clara Barton Study Tour updates below are from Jean Johnson of the Red Cross National Nursing Committee and Linda MacIntyre, chief nurse of the Red Cross, who are taking in tons of impressions and information at the various tour sites.

Antietam At Antietam

Wednesday, September 28

We’ve found our way to the Pry House Field Hospital Museum near the Antietam battle site as our first stop on the Clara Barton Tour.  Medications used for surgery necessitated fast surgical procedures as ether wore off quickly. This had its benefits.

However, there were toxic medicines used, such as mercury. One surgeon refused to use a mercury-based medication and was discharged from his post. His colleagues weren’t ready to accept evidence-based medicine—it was later confirmed that mercury caused significant damage to tissue. We also learned that soldiers treated in the barn and field did better in recovery than the officers who were cared for in the Pry House. This was because of the fresh air. […]

Clara Barton Tour Underway

September 29th, 2016|

By Linda MacIntyre, PhD, RN, chief nurse of the American Red Cross

Tour group at Clara Barton Office of Missing Soldiers Museum, Washington, DC.

The Clara Barton Tour officially began last evening. Participants gathered for dinner and conversation. Annie Bartholomew, long a student of Clara Barton, gave a brief overview of Barton’s life, with teasers for her upcoming presentation on the bus. Annie has stories to tell that might best be revealed over a glass of wine.

Reasons given for coming on the tour included

  • not having heard of Clara Barton and thinking it was time to learn about her,
  • over 40 years of studying Clara’s life,
  • a birthday gift from a husband.

And many came because of their connection with Sue Hassmilller, long-time volunteer and board member. It is Sue’s vision and energy that made the Clara Barton Tour possible and we are saddened that she’s not able to participate due to a family emergency. Sue’s wish for us is to enjoy the tour and to send prayers. We’re committed to doing both. […]

A 40-Year Red Cross Volunteer’s Ongoing Quest to Learn More

September 23rd, 2016|

Sue Hassmiller, on left, as American Red Cross volunteer following 2011 Alabama tornado strikes.

By Susan B. Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) senior advisor for nursing, and director, Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, American Red Cross volunteer national ambassador. (Second post of ongoing Clara Barton Study Tour series.)

The ‘Red Cross lady’ on the phone.

Earthquake hits Mexico City! said the news flash on my television screen 40 years ago as I sat in my childhood home. I was a college student, house-sitting for my parents, who were in Mexico City for a long-deserved vacation.

I had no idea what to do. There were no cell phones in those days, no Internet. I hurried to the yellow rotary phone on the wall at the end of the kitchen cabinets and dialed 0 for the operator. I implored her help. She said she couldn’t help me, but would connect me to an organization that could. It was the American Red Cross. […]

Following in the Footsteps of Clara Barton

September 16th, 2016|

clara-barton-photographed-by-matthew-bradyAt Antietam: From government clerk to “Angel of the Battlefield”

This Saturday marks the 154th anniversary of the Civil War Battle of Antietam—what has been called “the single bloodiest day in American military history.” Confederate army and Union troops faced off in Sharpsburg, Maryland. They fought for almost two days and when the battle ended, there were over 22,000 casualties among both sides. In the middle of it all, Clara Barton, a former teacher and government clerk, drove wagons of supplies around battle lines and tended to wounded soldiers.

Antietam marked the beginning of the legacy of Clara Barton, who on that day earned the title “Angel of the Battlefield.” Today, a monument to her stands at one end of the battlefield.

Bringing the Red Cross to America

arc-logoWhen the war ended, Barton continued to work for the soldiers, founding the Bureau of Records of Missing Men of the Armies of the United States to identify the millions of missing and dead soldiers. After a visit to Geneva with the International Red Cross in 1880, she returned and established the American Red Cross and became its president until 1904. […]