This March, as we celebrate Red Cross Month, we also celebrate Women's History Month and recognize the exceptional women leaders who blazed new paths and built brighter futures for us all. And, who would be more fitting to honor than our inspirational founder, Clara Barton?
Clarissa Harlowe Barton -- Clara, as she wished to be called -- is one of the most honored women in American history for being a true pioneer as well as an outstanding humanitarian. As pioneer, she began teaching school at a time when most teachers were men. She was among the first women to gain employment in the federal government. As a pioneer and humanitarian, she risked her life when she was nearly 40 years old to bring supplies and support to soldiers in the field during the Civil War.
Then, at age 60, she founded the American Red Cross in 1881 and led it for the next 23 years during which time it conducted its first domestic and overseas disaster relief efforts, aided the United States military during the Spanish-American War, and campaigned successfully for the inclusion of peacetime relief work as part of the International Red Cross Movement. Barton first heard of the Swiss-inspired International Red Cross Movement while visiting Europe following the Civil War. Returning home, she campaigned for an American Red Cross society and for ratification of the Geneva Convention protecting the war-injured, which the United States ratified in 1882.
Her understanding of the needs of people in distress and the ways in which she could provide help to them guided her throughout her life. By the force of her personal example, she opened paths to the new field of volunteer service. Her intense devotion to the aim of serving others resulted in enough achievements to fill several ordinary lifetimes.
Today, Clara Barton's passion, perseverance, and humanitarian spirit are embodied in the work carried out by the American Red Cross. In March, we not only celebrate her life and her commitment to others as an exceptional woman leader, but recognize the organization she built.