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Clara Barton’s Contributions to Nursing Essay

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Updated: Apr 21st, 2022

Clara Barton is famous for her role in founding the American Red Cross. Barton pioneered nursing in America, having provided both material and nursing support to soldiers during the Civil War. She was born Clarissa Harlowe Barton in the year 1821 in Massachusetts. Clara was successful at a tender age. By the age of seventeen, she had established herself as a teacher, beating the acute shyness she suffered as a child (Smith, n.d.). She later founded her own school, which she left later on a career change. Barton made a commendable contribution as the Civil War progressed. She went to the battlefield where she nursed soldiers and provided them with supplies. Her efforts during the Civil War, and her advocacy for ratification of the Geneva Convention, led to the formation of the American Red Cross (Stein, 2013). This paper is an analysis of Clara Barton’s contributions to nursing.

As soldiers from Massachusetts got to Washington in the year 1861, they had lost belongings in skirmishes that took place on their way. This situation prompted Clara Barton to seek ways of attending to the soldiers, which marked the beginning of her career in the Civil War. She intended to supply the troops with food and other supplies, making successful advertisements after the soldiers had fought at the Bull Run battle. “She talked the Surgeon-General into letting her personally distribute supplies to wounded and sick soldiers, and she personally cared for some who needed nursing services” (Lewis, 2009, p. 1). With time, war generals welcomed her to the battlefront and supported her as much as they could. Barton, therefore, nursed soldiers and provided them with food and other supplies. She also got appointed as the superintended of nurses at battle sites.

Despite being a freelancer, Barton always consulted with the responsible authorities, including the Army. Most of her work was in battle sites in Maryland and Virginia, although she sometimes went to nurse soldiers and supply goods in other states. She had passionately dedicated herself to providing soldiers with food and other materials, and thus she gave wagons of the same to hospitals that nursed soldiers. As mentioned above, she also personally nursed soldiers when she was at hospitals and battlefields. Additionally, Clara helped families of fallen fighters identify their wounded or dead loved ones. Barton was always neutral as she served people, a fact that reduced her vulnerability on the battlefield. With time, soldiers nicknamed her the “Angel of the battlefield” (Lewis, 2009, p. 1).

After the Civil War ended, she embarked on finding unmarked graves and identifying the victims, notably the victims buried in Andersonville. Here, she coordinated various stakeholders to build a national cemetery. “She returned to work out of a Washington, DC, office to identify more of the missing. As head of a missing person’s office, established with the support of President Lincoln, she was the first woman bureau head in the United States government” (Lewis, 2009, p. 1). She produced a report in the year 1869 that showed information about fighters whose whereabouts were unknown. She also lectured to students about the things she had learned during the war, and also spoke about the plight of women, albeit without getting overindulged in women’s rights.

In the year 1869, Barton went for treatment in Europe. When she got there, she heard about the Geneva Convention for the first time, and about the International Red Cross established by the Convention. She became aware that the U.S. was yet to sign the Convention. The leadership of the Red Cross persuaded her to advocate for signing and implementation of the Convention back home. Instead, Clara chose to work with the Red Cross in Europe, earning her honor by Baden and German heads of state. She became overwhelmed by rheumatic fever and decided to return to the U.S. in the year 1873 (Lewis, 2009).

After recovering from the fever, Clara persuaded both President Garfield and Arthur to advocate for Geneva Convention ratification in the Senate, winning approval in the year 1882. The U.S. therefore ratified the treaty that followed the Geneva Convention and was obligated under the treaty to establish an affiliate of the Red Cross in America. Clara became the American Red Cross’s first president, and headed it for about twenty-three years. Later, the International Red Cross revised its activities to include disasters and epidemics, in addition to war activities. The American Red Cross also did the same. Barton was involved in giving aid in many war and disaster scenes including the Armenian massacre that occurred in Turkey, the Spanish-American War, the Johnstown flood, the yellow fever epidemic in Florida, the Galveston tidal wave and the Cincinnati flood (Lewis, 2009).

From the discussion above, it is apparent that Clara Barton was passionate about helping other people. Without any organizational and reporting structure, she offered her nursing and supply services to wounded soldiers during the Civil War. She then took it upon herself to follow up on the ratification of the Geneva Convention and the subsequent establishment of the American Red Cross. Later, she served in the American Red Cross as the president and visited many sites of war, disasters, and epidemics to help victims.

Reference List

Lewis, J. (2009). .

Smith, P. (n.d.). Clara Barton: 1821 – 1912. Web.

Stein, A. (2013). .

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