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Clara Barton Began The American Red Cross In 1881 When She Was 59

Do you know the important facts about American Red Cross? You are likely familiar with the red cross on the white background, the symbol of the humanitarian organization. The American Red Cross is a part of the International Red Cross. The Red Cross features prominently in blood drives and disaster relief during events such as 9/11, hurricane recovery and more. But did you know that the Red Cross predominantly helps families affected by more basic disasters like house fires?

The Red Cross was founded by Clara Barton. Today we mark National American Red Cross Founder’s D

  • We know her as Clara Barton, but her full name is Clarissa Harlowe Barton. She was named after a character from the novel Clarissa or the History of a Young Lady, which her aunt was reading when Clara was born in 1821.
  • Clara grew up on a farm in Oxford, Mass. When she was six, she saw an ox slaughtered for food and was a vegetarian from thereon.
  • When she was eight years old, a phrenologist—one who surmises a person’s psychology using the shape of their patient’s head—predicted that Clara would “always be good and helping people.” (It was also a phrenologist that later recommended she become a teacher to overcome her shyness.)
  • When she was 11, her brother, David fell from the roof of their family barn. Clara was tasked with caring for and feeding him. She also leeched him twice a day for two years. It was not until a visiting doctor told them to stop leeching him that David recovered. This was Clara’s first exposure to tending for the wounded.
  • Clara became a teacher at the age of 16. Later, when she was 30, she opened a free school in Bordentown, New Jersey, where there had only been subscription schools before. Under her lead, the school’s attendance grew to more than 600; but its board still hired a man (with less experience than Clara) instead of her as principal (and paid him more than her.) She left the school soon thereafter.
  • Afterward, she got a job as a clerk in the U.S. Patent Office. In fact, she may well have been the first full-time female employee of the federal government. As you may have guessed, some of her male coworkers treated her poorly—even going so far as to spit tobacco in her skirt.
  • When the Civil War began, she worked as a battlefield nurse. One of the soldiers to whom she tended told her, “This is the second time you saved my life.” He then explained that she had been his teacher in New Jersey. Clara risked her own life by being on the battlefield. Once, a bullet went through her sleeve and killed the soldier behind her.
  • Clara was first introduced to the International Red Cross when she visited Switzerland while recovering from a nervous breakdown after the war.
  • When she recommended joining the Red Cross to President Rutherford B. Hayes, he disapproved.
  • However, when she suggested starting an American Red Cross to his President Chester Arthur, he loved it. Clara was named its first president in 1881. She was 59.
  • When Clara moved the American Red Cross headquarters from Washington D.C. to Glen Echo, Maryland, she would often make the volunteers’ lunch using food grown in the office’s garden.
  • Clara lived to be 91. Her last words: “Let me go.”
  • The Red Cross actually provides 40% of all blood in this country and they couldn’t do it without the 2.8 million volunteers who donate 4.9 million units of blood.
  • In addition to donating blood, you can also donate platelets, plasma, or do a double donation called Power Red. But definitely do it because every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood.
  •  Last year (2018), the American Red Cross responded to 62,000 disasters, most of which were house fires.
  • There is an international federation that organizes over 190 Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations from all over the globe in times of international crisis. The federation is there to oversee who serves what role on the ground so that all needs are being met.
  • they have 58 regions across the United States with local chapters covering every community.
  •  Fairfax, Virginia is the home of their Disaster Operations Center (DOC), where they are constantly monitoring news and weather for any potential disasters.
  • Today, they have a $46 million operating margin.
  • 90 cents of every dollar is invested in care.
  • They score 100% for transparency on Charity Navigator
  • Download the American Red Cross First Aid app, which gives advice on what immediate steps to take in case of a medical emergency. They also have a Pet First Aid app!
  • But on average, only 3 out of 100 people donate blood.
  • And the average donation age is 53 years. Donation age starts as young as 16 years old.
  • 83% of donors are Caucasian.
  • While not a government agency, 1.7% of the ARC budget is government funded to provide services to our military and their families around the world.
  • The organization supports more than 1,000 organizations across the U.S.
  • A goal of having one person per American household trained in CPR and first aid.


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