Clara Barton was an amazing humanitarian, innovator, and pioneer. She actually lived to serve humanity, especially soldiers and victims of natural disasters. And, she didn’t worry about the fact that she didn’t start her career as a nurse, in fact, I’m not sure she ever became a trained nurse.
At the young age of 40, she risked her very life to bring needed medical supplies to the soldiers during the Civil War. She saw a need to take care of the wounded soldiers, many of them she knew from her neighborhood and had taught. So, she started collecting articles herself and asked others for their help. She didn’t at all try to do this on her on, she enlisted the help of others who believed as she did. She started out caring for the wounded off the field in makeshift hospital but felt a strong calling that her help was needed on the front lines. She and her volunteers were extremely brave to go to the battlefields, sometimes ahead of the soldiers to set up, knowing it could be their last trip.
At the ripe at of 60, she formed and became president of The American Association of the Red Cross, which is a franchise of the International Red Cross that originated in Geneva, Switzerland. She held that position for 23 years.
Clara had an amazing gift for creating solutions to help those around her in need of aid. She is credited with many astounding accomplishments such as establishing the first free public school in Bordertown, NJ; starting the first Red Cross tracing system, then called The Office of Correspondence with Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army, where she wrote to over 63,000 missing solider families; petitioning for the United States to sign the Geneva Treaty, and co-founding the Tomb of the Unknowns, to name a few.
But all the hard work and no play came at a price. There were times she lost her sight, lost her voice and collapsed from sheer exhaustion because she never believed, with all the work she did, it was enough. She completely dedicated herself to the cause at the expense of herself. But her passion is also what kept her going.
So what can you learn from this amazing woman?
She may not have started a business but she definitely listened to her inner voice and did not let anyone tell her she couldn’t do what she knew in her heart was right. She also didn’t let her age stop her from making a difference. Nowhere did I read that she stopped and thought, “You know, I’m too old to for this.” She never let her age get in the way and always took action.
If you are worried that you don’t have enough training, are getting old or that you can’t make a difference, take inspiration from Miss Barton, who heard a calling in her heart and did what she could to answer it her entire life.
American Red Cross Museum: Clara Barton: Founder of the American Red Cross
National Park Service: Clara Barton Chronology