Clara Barton was a remarkable woman. She was born Clarissa Harlow Barton on December 25, 1821 in North Oxford, Massachusetts. Her family's commitment to public and community service had a great impact on her. From 1832 to 1855, she was a teacher. In 1852, she started the first free public school in Bordentown, New Jersey. In 1855, she was a patent clerk at the U.S. Patent Office.
Her humanitarian efforts came to light at the height of the Civil War when she solicited donations of supplies for soldiers. She went out on the battlefield to tend to wounded and dying soldiers. She was known as “The Angel of the Battlefield”. From 1865 to 1869, she established an organization to help locate missing soldiers. She founded the American Red Cross on May 21, 1881. Under her leadership, the organization provided relief and supplies to victims of natural disasters and wars.
She established the National First Aid Organization of America after resigning as President of the American Red Cross. The organization emphasized basic first aid instruction, emergency preparedness, and firsts aid kits. Clara Barton died at her home in Glen Echo, Maryland on April 12, 1910.
Last week, tour guide Kevin Patti gave us a tour of the Clara Barton House. Barton worked and resided there for the last fifteen years of her life. It was the headquarters of the American Red Cross until 1904. The house, built in 1891, was modeled on a relief shelter of the Red Cross during the Johnstown Flood of 1889. The house was not fully completed because the trolley couldn’t bring all the supplies. Barton, being frugal, put up the railings and ceilings. She used muslin and bandages to cover the ceilings--which are still evident.
The house is very fascinating and makes you feel right at home. The house had more than 50 closet spaces—mostly in the walls—that held tools and supplies for relief. There are flags hanging on the walls and in the parlor. It is said that she had a fascination with flags. The hallway served as a dining room, playroom, and work space. There are six chimneys which could heat up to 12 furnaces. One-third of the objects belonged to Clara Barton. Every desk has a typewriter. On the second level, are the bedrooms and sitting room. Boarders were expected to provide community service. The sitting room is where Barton wrote in her journals. And the third floor has donated furniture for victims who lost their possessions.
The Clara Barton National Historical Site is the first National Park dedicated to a woman. It was established by Congress in 1974 and National Park in 1975. The park is open seven days a week; closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. Tours are conducted between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Reservations for large groups are required.
Clara Barton National Historical Site 5801 Oxford Road, Glen Echo, MD 20812 (301) 320-1410 www.nps.gov/clba