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Clarissa Harlowe "Clara" Barton was a pioneer American teacher, nurse, and humanitarian. She is best remembered for organizing the American Red Cross.
Clarissa Harlowe Barton was born on December 25, 1821, in Oxford, Massachusetts, to Stephen and Sarah Barton. She was the youngest of five children. Clara's father was a farmer and horse breeder (who also served as a captain in the French and Indian Wars), while her mother Sarah managed the household. The two later helped found the first Universalist Church in Oxford.
When Clara was eleven, her brother David became her first patient after he fell from a rafter in their unfinished barn. Clara stayed at his side for three years and learned to administer all his medicines, including the "great, loathsome crawling leeches".
As she continued to develop an interest in nursing, Clara may have drawn inspiration from stories of her great-aunt, Martha Ballard, who served the town of Hallowell (later Augusta), Maine, as a midwife for over three decades. Ballard helped deliver nearly one thousand infants between 1777 and 1812, and in many cases administered medical care in much the same way as a formally trained doctor of her era.
On his death bed, Clara's father gave her advice that she would later recall:
"As a patriot, he had me serve my country with all I had, even with my life if need be; as the daughter of an accepted Mason, he had me seek and comfort the afflicted everywhere, and as a Christian he charged me to honor God and love all kind. "The door that nobody else will go in at, seems always to open widely for me."
Barton then achieved widespread recognition by delivering lectures around the country about her war experiences. She met Susan B. Anthony and began a long association with the woman's suffrage movement. She also became acquainted with Frederick Douglass and became an activist for black civil rights, or an abolitionist.
When Clara Barton returned to the United States, she inaugurated a movement to gain recognition for the International Committee of the Red Cross by the United States government. When she began work on this project in 1873, most Americans thought the U.S. would never again face a calamity like the Civil War, but Barton finally succeeded during the administration of President James Garfield, using the argument that the new American Red Cross could respond to crises other than war.