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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Clara Barton

b. 1821, Oxford, Massachusetts; d. 1912, Glen Echo, Maryland

Although she never received formal medical training, Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross in 1881 and the National First Aid Society in 1904. She gravitated toward nursing at a young age, caring for her ill brother when she was only eleven and learning to administer medication. Initially a teacher, she established a school for the children of mill workers in 1845. She left the teaching profession in 1854 for a job as a clerk in the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C. With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, she devoted herself to the care of soldiers—Union and Confederate—wounded on the battlefield, often risking her own life in the process. She helped to establish field hospitals, assisted in the care and education of former slaves, and in 1865, by authority of President Lincoln, was placed in charge of the search for missing Union soldiers. Often called the “Angel of the Battlefield,” Barton continued to do war-related relief work well into her seventies, carrying supplies to Cuba in 1898 during the Spanish-American War.