Clarissa Harlowe Barton


U.S. History 1


May 14, 2002


Clarissa Harlowe Barton was born on December 25, 1821 in North Oxford, Massachusetts. As a child she was very timid and shy. Clara knew from an early age that she cared for others more than herself. At the time, she had no idea how much it would affect the rest of her life.


Clara was the youngest of five children. She received the majority of her education through homeschooling from her older siblings. When she was twelve years old, her brother David fell off of a roof during a storm. He was injured badly and was hospitalized for several months. He condition was not improving, so he was sent home to stay so that he would be more comfortable. Because Claraís parents were not wealthy, she took time off from her schoolwork and took care of David for nearly two years, and he got better. Her parents realized that she had a heart for nursing, because she was good at putting others needs before hers. Claraís parents never had much, and she was always afraid to ask for things. Once, when her parents asked if she needed a new pair of shoes, she broke down crying because her feet hurt so badly from her old shoes, but didnít want her parents to have to spend the extra money.


When Clara was 15 years old, noted phrenologist told her parents that though she didnít want to speak up for herself, she would definitely take a stand for others. Then, in 1839, Clara passed the examination for schoolteachers and began teaching in schools in the North Oxford area. In Claraís time, school was only for wealthy families, and their parents paid the teacherís salaries. Clara knew children who really wanted to learn, but were not rich enough to attend these schools. In 1845, she established a school for the


children of mill workers in one of her brotherís mills. She taught and was principle at the school until 1850 when a male principle was hired. For the next five years she spent time travelling and teaching at various schools in the Massachusetts and New Jersey and founded the first public school.


In 1855 she moved to Washington, D.C. and worked as a recording clerk and copyist, making the same amount of money as a man in her department, which was very unusual in that time. She became very interested in politics during Buchananís term, due to the talk of succession of the southern states. When her father died in March of 1862, some of his last words were encouraging her to help in case of a war between the states. By 1861, a confederacy was formed, and the first shot was fired on April 12th at Fort Sumter.


By July 1862, wounded soldiers were arriving in Washington, D.C. Clara did all she could to help nurse them back to health. In August, inspired by her fatherís words, she received permission to travel with the Army of the Potomac and tend to soldiers on the battlefield as well as wounded slaves and civilians. Clara risked her life several times during the war to walk through battlefields and rescue hurt men. She once walked off of a field with 12 bullet holes in her skirt and nearly a foot of blood around her hem. Miraculously, she was unharmed.


The Civil War ended on April 9, 1865 at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. However, Clara kept fighting to find lost soldiers and identify bodies for families. In May 1865, she established the Office of Correspondence with Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army and volunteering at the Andersonville Prison in Georgia to help wounded Confederate soldiers. When the Office of Missing Men was closed in 1869, she had answered more that 22,000 letters and put thousands of families back together.


For the next four years, Clara traveled alongside Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain giving lectures about her wartime experiences. She also met idols Susan B. Anthony and Cady Stanton and became very involved with Womenís Suffrage, though women did not get the right to vote until nearly sixty years later. In 1870, Clara traveled to Europe to continue speaking, but