Bailey Weiher is a sixth grader at Onalaska Middle School in Lewis County, WA. Last month she completed a research project on the founder of the American Red Cross, Clara Barton. She loved learning about Clara and was proud to share her knowledge with classmates.

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Bailey also has a personal connection to the American Red Cross.  Two years ago, her grandmother’s house burned to the ground. Generations of memories were lost. While family members stood crying on the lawn, Red Cross volunteers showed up to help. They arrived with information and supplies. Things they would need to get through the night and the next few days. Items as small (and important) as a toothbrush.

Bailey writes, “Grammie and Papa made it out with only the clothes on their back, but the Red Cross met their needs immediately, just like Clara Barton would have.  That is why the Red Cross made such a difference in my life.”

Bailey Weiher gave us permission to share an excerpt of her report with all of you:


Clara Barton, by Bailey Weiher

Clara Barton is best known for beginning the American Red Cross and leading our country’s first relief efforts in times of war and natural disasters. However, Clara was more than just a volunteer. She encouraged education for all, fought for equal rights for women.

American Red Cross Historical Photo
Portrait of Clara Barton, 1881. This image was used in the Red Cross Courier, May 15, 1931, page 295.

Clara set up distribution sites for Civil War soldiers, helped identify missing soldiers and create a National Cemetery, and established the National First-Aid Association. She started caring for others as a child and never gave that passion up. She was a well-spoken knowledgeable woman, in a time that it was not popular to be so.

Clara Barton was born December 25, 1821 with the given the name of Clarissa Harlowe Barton.  Her father, Captain Stephen Barton, was a veteran in the Indian Wars. Her mother, Sarah, believed in women’s rights and taught her that everyone should be treated equal.

At seventeen years old, Clara became a teacher without any training. She was very good at her job and decided to pursue a degree in education. Soon after, she started her own public school with over 600 students.

As an adult, Clara moved to Washington D.C. to work in the patent office. She was ultimately fired from that position because she was a woman. As a result, Clara began to fight for women’s rights in the workplace. President Abraham Lincoln even supported her cause.

In April 1861 when the Civil War began, Clara felt an immediate need to help the soldiers, many who were already wounded, hungry, and some without bedding or even clothes. Clara started collecting and passing out supplies and offered her personal support by reading to them, writing letters for them, listening to their personal problems, and praying with them. She treated the soldiers as her own children even though she was never married and had no children of her own. Clara set up a distribution center and had permission to hand out supplies on the battlefield helping any and every soldier no matter what side.

“People call me a nurse- I scarcely know why.  There were no nurses then.  Trained nurses were not known.  My work was, and chiefly had been to get timely supplies to those needing.  It had taught me the value of Things.  They have lost all.  They want food, clothing, shelter, medicines and a few calm practical persons to administer them.  This seems to have been my work.”  (Clara Barton excerpt from interview published on January 10, 1908 in the New York Sun.)

After the Civil War in 1865, Clara started the Office of Correspondence which helped find missing soldiers that the army did not keep records of.  She identified over 22,000 soldiers and participated in creating a national cemetery.  For three years Clara traveled and delivered over 200 lectures about her Civil War experiences.

Clara went to Europe and found a service organization called the International Red Cross. Then on May 21, 1881, Clara established and became the elected president of the American Red Cross. Clara led the American Red Cross in relief efforts for floods, earthquakes, fires, and droughts for the next 20 years.

At 83 years old Clara resigned from the Red Cross, but kept responding to the call for human need again and again. That same year she established the National First-Aid Associations of America. This organization shared basic first aid instruction, emergency preparedness, and the development of first aid kits. Several years later The Red Cross included those goals in their own program.

Her combined efforts made a strong foundation for our country to follow and to prepare for disaster. Clara Barton was an example of community service to all.


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