March is Red Cross Month and Women’s History Month. Who spent much of her life in the service of others and is credited with creating the American Red Cross?
A one-time teacher and then clerk in the U.S. Patent Office, Clara Barton spent the American Civil War nursing wounded troops and distributing supplies at the front, including at Antietam. She helped soldiers any way she could, earning the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield.” After the war ended in 1865, she worked for the War Department, helping to either reunite missing soldiers and their families or finding out more about those who were missing. She succeeded in tracking down some 22,000 men.
While visiting Europe a few years after the war’s conclusion, Barton learned about the Red Cross movement and the related Geneva Convention, which regulated the treatment of wounded soldiers and was later expanded to include prisoners of war and civilians. Upon returning home, she began lobbying the U.S. government to ratify the Geneva Convention, which it did in 1882. Meanwhile, in May 1881, Barton founded the American Red Cross, an organization designed to provide humanitarian aid to victims of wars and natural disasters in congruence with the International Red Cross. Under Barton’s leadership, the Red Cross focused on helping victims of peacetime disasters, including the 1889 Johnstown Flood in Pennsylvania, which killed more than 2,000 people, and the 1893 hurricane in South Carolina’s Sea Islands that left some 30,000 people homeless, most of them African American. She led the organization for over two decades, finally resigning at the age of 83.
In honor of the important contribution of the American Red Cross to the well-being of our community, state and nation, Mayor John Gregg recently declared March 2021 as Red Cross Month in the Town of Seabrook Island. Click here to read the Proclamation.
To learn more about the American Red Cross, see below.
For more than 125 years, the mission of the American Red Cross has been to help individuals and families prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. The Red Cross provides disaster relief assistance to those affected by natural and human-caused disasters.
Every day through the American Red Cross, people mobilize to help their neighbors. More than half a million volunteers and 30,000 employees of the Red Cross, many from communities like ours, help provide these life-changing and often lifesaving services.
The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on generous donations of time, money and blood to do its work. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. Governed by volunteers and supported by voluntary donations, the American Red Cross is a network of:
- More than 600 locally supported chapters
- 36 Blood Services regions
- 7 Blood Services divisions
- 58 Service to the Armed Forces stations
- Nearly 20 International Offices.
The Red Cross provides a unique, community-based network focused on the following five major areas of service:
- Helping disaster victims
- Connecting the armed forces with their families
- Teaching life-saving skills
- Collecting, testing, and supplying blood across the nation
- Partnering in international services.
(Sources: biography.com; history.com; redcross.org)