See biographies by I. Ross (1956) and W. E. Barton (1969); S. B. Oates, A Woman of Valor (1994).
(born Dec. 25, 1821, Oxford, Mass., U.S.—died April 12, 1912, Glen Echo, Md.) U.S. nurse, founder of the American Red Cross. She attended the Liberal Institute at Clinton, N.Y. (1850–51). In 1852 she established a free school in Bordentown, N.J., that soon became so large that the townsmen would no longer allow a woman to run it. After resigning her post, she was employed by the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C. (1854–57, 1860). During the American Civil War she organized the distribution of medicine and supplies for soldiers wounded in the first Battle of Bull Run. She gained permission to pass through battle lines to distribute supplies, search for the missing, and nurse the wounded, becoming known as the “angel of the battlefield.” In 1865, at the request of Pres. Abraham Lincoln, she set up a bureau of records to aid in the search for missing men. While in Europe for a rest, she helped with relief work for victims of the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71) and became associated with the International Red Cross. In 1881 she founded the American Red Cross. She lobbied Congress to sign the Geneva Convention (see Geneva Conventions), which provided for the treatment of the sick and wounded in battle and the proper handling of prisoners of war. She wrote the U.S. amendment to the constitution of the Red Cross, which provides for the distribution of relief not only in war but also during natural disasters. She served as president of the American Red Cross until 1904.
Learn more about Barton, Clara with a free trial on Britannica.com.