Jane Early May 23, 2021

One hundred and forty years ago, on May 21, 1881, Clara Harlow Barton attended the first meeting focused on what would become the American Red Cross Society. The Chicago Tribune reported on the meeting the following day. It was entitled, The Red Cross: Its Organization.

“Washington, D.C., May 21- At a meeting this evening, largely attended by prominent citizens and those actively interested in beneficent organizations, a constitution was adopted as a basis of an organization to be known as the Red Cross Society. Judge William Lawrence presided. Miss Clara Barton, prominently identified with sanitary and hospital work during the Civil War, and conspicuous during the Franco-Prussian war as one of the Red Cross representatives, read a paper showing the scope and efficiency of their Red Cross Societies in countries where the order is recognized by the government. Several of the cabinet officials and many of the highest army officials are warm supporters of the cause, notably Secretaries Blaine, Windom and Lincoln, Generals Sherman, Grant, Sheridan, Townsend, and Rucker, and Assistant Surgeon General Crane.”

Clara Harlow Barton remained President of the American Red Cross until 1904. Today the Red Cross is the largest volunteer organization in the world, found in 187 countries. Much has been written about Clara Harlow Barton. Her work with the Sanitary Commission during the civil war, as well as her later accomplishments, can be found in many publications and websites. For example:

The Nursing History Museum has a photo of Clara Harlow Barton with 87 nurses, circa 1890. This framed photo can be seen when visiting the Museum of Nursing History.