Today is the birthday of the U.S. branch of the Red Cross (on this day in 1881, the Red Cross was officially incorporated). Today is a good day to stop and say a thank you to Clara Barton, the woman who brought the Red Cross to the U.S.
When I was growing up, Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale got credit as being the first nurses. In some ways, I'm surprised I didn't go into nursing. I remember devouring books about Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale and feeling inspired.
Of course, I read about all sorts of people, and I didn't go on to adopt their careers. I loved reading biographies as a child. I've mentioned before the series that my school library had, a whole bookcase of biographies bound in orange covers. I must have read one or two a week. And I loved reading about women best. From an early age, I knew that I had advantages that earlier generations of women never would have had. From an early age, I admired those people in the past who didn't let obstacles stand in their way.
Clara Barton was one of those women who saw inadequacies and rushed in to fix them. The Writer's Almanac site post for today tells us: "During one of the first major engagements of the war, the Battle of Bull Run, the Union suffered a staggering defeat and as Clara read reports of the battle she realized that the Union Army had not seriously considered or provided for wounded soldiers. She began to ride along in ambulances, providing supplies and comfort to wounded soldiers on the frontlines."
After the Civil War, she went to Europe, where she first learned about the Red Cross, but she faced resistance when she proposed bringing a branch to the U.S., because people couldn't believe there would ever be a war as awful again. But she persisted: The Writer's Almanac site tells us that she proposed that the organization be used for other types of disasters.
Today, the Red Cross serves many of us, whether we need a blood transfusion or shelter after a disaster or training in first aid and/or CPR or a team to go to places most of us cannot go to offer humanitarian relief. So thank you, Clara Barton. Thank you for ministering to the Civil War soldiers and showing the world that women can survive harsh conditions, which would open all sorts of doors to all sorts of opportunities for women. Thank you for your vision for the Red Cross. Thank you for tackling projects which would have defeated most of us.