The American Red Cross

May 20, 2012

The date was May 21, 1881. The place was Washington D.C. The people were Clara Barton and Adolphus Solomons. The event was the Founding of the American Red Cross. The American Red Cross joined in congruence with the International Red Cross to provide Humanitarian relief to the victims of wars and natural disasters.

Clara Barton was well known as the “Angel of the Battlefield” for her work during the American Civil War. She was a battlefield nurse among many other things and was in attendance in most of the major battles of the Civil War, including First Bull Run and Antietam. Upon a commission from President Lincoln, Barton succeeded in identifying thousands of Union Solders who died at the Andersonville prisoner-of-war camp.

Due to her experiences in Europe during the Franco-Prussian War, Barton understood the importance of an American branch of the International Red Cross. When she returned to the United States, she then worked on organizing such a branch.

Under her leadership, The American Red Cross’s peacetime work included aiding people affected by natural disasters, such as the victims of the Mississippi and Ohio River floods in 1882 and 1884, the Texas famine of 1886, the Florida yellow fever epidemic in 1887, an 1888 Illinois earthquake, and the 1889 Johnstown, Pennsylvania flood. Due to the positive peacetime work of the American Red Cross, other countries recognized the need for peacetime aid and the 1884 Geneva Convention adopted the “American Amendment.”

Clara Barton led the American Red Cross until retiring in 1904. Today the American Red Cross remains as a bulwark for those in need due to natural disasters and other events, such as house fires. Furthermore, they provide a way of collecting donated blood for those with medical emergencies.

–Lindsey Richey is a sophomore Ashbrook Scholar majoring in History and Political Science, with minors in Religion and Classical Civilizations.

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