The American Red Cross was organized MAY 21, 1881, by a schoolteacher named Clara Barton. The first woman to be a clerk at the U.S. Patent Office, Clara Barton moved to Washington at the outbreak of the Civil War.
She distributed relief supplies to wounded soldiers and, at the request of President Lincoln, aided for nearly four years in searching for missing soldiers.
One day after carrying a wounded soldier off the field, Clara Barton said:
“A ball had passed between my body and the right arm which supported him, cutting through the sleeve and passing through his chest from shoulder to shoulder. There was no more to be done for him and I left him to his rest. I have never mended that hole in my sleeve. I wonder if a soldier ever does mend a bullet hole in his coat?”
As recorded in Jone Johnson Lewis’ collection of Clara Barton Quotes, Clara Barton prayed:
“Oh northern mothers wives and sisters, all unconscious of the hour, would to Heaven that I could bear for you the concentrated woe which is so soon to follow, would that Christ would teach my soul a prayer that would plead to the Father for grace sufficient for you, God pity and strengthen you every one.”
“In time of peace we must prepare for war, and it is no less a wise benevolence that makes preparation in the hour of peace for assuaging the ills that are sure to accompany war…
I have an almost complete disregard of precedent, and a faith in the possibility of something better…I cannot afford the luxury of a closed mind. I go for anything new that might improve the past.”
She helped in hospitals in Cuba during the Spanish-American War and in Europe during the Franco-German war, working with Henri Dunant, founder of the International Red Cross.
Clara Barton established the first permanent American Red Cross society and headed the organization until 1904.
“An institution or reform movement that is not selfish, must originate in the recognition of some evil that is adding to the sum of human suffering, or diminishing the sum of happiness. I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while our soldiers can stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them. I am well and strong and young – young enough to go to the front. If I cannot be a soldier, I’ll help soldiers.”
President William McKinley stated regarding Clara Barton in his Second Annual Message, December 5, 1898:
“It is a pleasure for me to mention in terms of cordial appreciation the timely and useful work of the American National Red Cross, both in relief measures preparatory to the campaigns, in sanitary assistance at several of the camps of assemblage, and later, under the able and experienced leadership of the president of the society, Miss Clara Barton, on the fields of battle and in the hospitals at the front in Cuba.
Working in conjunction with the governmental authorities and under their sanction and approval, and with the enthusiastic cooperation of many patriotic women and societies in the various States, the Red Cross has fully maintained its already high reputation for intense earnestness and ability to exercise the noble purposes of its international organization, thus justifying the confidence and support which it has received at the hands of the American people.
To the members and officers of this society and all who aided them in their philanthropic work the sincere and lasting gratitude of the soldiers and the public is due and is freely accorded.
In tracing these events we are constantly reminded of our obligations to the Divine Master for His watchful care over us and His safe guidance, for which the nation makes reverent acknowledgment and offers humble prayer for the continuance of His favor.”
President Woodrow Wilson mentioned the Red Cross in his Proclamation of a Contribution Day for the aid of stricken Jewish people, January 11, 1916:
“Whereas in the various countries now engaged in war there are nine millions of Jews, the great majority of whom are destitute of food, shelter, and clothing; and…have been driven from their homes without warning, deprived of an opportunity to make provision for their most elementary wants, causing starvation, disease and untold suffering; and
Whereas the people of the United States of America have learned with sorrow of this terrible plight of millions of human beings and have most generously responded to the cry for help…
Now, Therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States…do appoint and proclaim January 27, 1916, as a day upon which the people of the United States may make such contributions as they feel disposed for the aid of the stricken Jewish people. Contributions may be addressed to the American Red Cross, Washington, D.C., which will care for their proper distribution.”
Opening the Second Red Cross Drive in New York City, President Woodrow
Wilson stated, May 18, 1918:
“Being members of the American Red Cross…a great fraternity and fellowship which extends all over the world…this cross which these ladies bore here today is an emblem of Christianity itself…”
Woodrow Wilson continued:
“When you think of this, you realize how the people of the United States are being drawn together into a great intimate family whose heart is being used for the service of the soldiers not only, but for the long night of suffering and terror, in order that they and men everywhere may see the dawn of a day of righteousness and justice and peace.”
On December 8, 1918, in an appeal of support for the American Red Cross just a month after the fighting in World War I had ceased, President Woodrow Wilson stated:
“One year ago, twenty-two million Americans, by enrolling as members of the Red Cross at Christmas time, sent to the men who were fighting our battles overseas a stimulating message of cheer and good-will…Now, by God’s grace, the Red Cross Christmas message of 1918 is to be a message of peace as well as a message of good-will.”
On May 1, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt greeted the chairman of the American National Red Cross, Norman H. Davis, in Washington, D.C.:
“The great International Red Cross organization, founded 76 years ago to bring mercy to the battlefield…I am confident that whatever may be the problems which intensification of warfare may bring, the American people will respond to any appeal for funds when the Red Cross deems it necessary to call upon them for additional aid.
By such response we can aid in sustaining the spirit and morale of those in distress abroad until the happy day we all pray for, when hostilities shall cease.”
William J. Federer is a nationally known speaker, best-selling author, and president of Amerisearch, Inc., a publishing company dedicated to researching America’s noble heritage.
To learn more visit William Federer
Featured image: 1865: Clara Barton courtesy of PBWorks