Few women in American history can lay claim to a body of work that lives on today, like Clara Barton. Because of her, the American Red Cross exists to provide emergency humanitarian aid to anyone in need, in the face of natural or man-made disasters.
Heralded as the “Angel of the Battlefield,” the founder of the American Red Cross earned that name while tending to wounded soldiers on battlefields during the Civil War. After the war, she ran the Missing Soldiers Office, which handled correspondence to find or identify soldiers killed or missing in action. During that time, she wrote 63,000 letters and helped identify 22,000 soldiers, bringing closure to their families. While on a trip to Geneva, Switzerland, she was introduced to the Red Cross, and later played an instrumental role in lobbying U.S. Congress to adopt the Geneva Treaty. The American Red Cross received our first congressional charter in 1900.
An early female pioneer, Clara also paved the way for women in leadership roles, including Mabel Thorp Boardman, who led the American Red Cross following its receipt of congressional charter, to today’s president and CEO Gail McGovern, who has served in the role since 2008.