Born in 1821 in Massachusetts, Barton worked with the sick and wounded Union and Confederates soldiers during the American Civil War. She became known as “The Angel of the Battlefield” for her efforts. Her efforts crossed the boundaries in 1870. She was in Europe when the Franco-Prussian War broke out where she worked for the International Red Cross.
Three years later she returned to the United States and was determined to bring the organization also in her country. Therefore, on May 21, 1881 “The Angel of the Battlefield” became the first President of the American Red Cross.
Before the official foundation, Barton organized a meeting on May 12 at the home of Senator Omar Conger. Despite that only fifteen people attended, the American Red Cross was founded a few days later. In the same year in August, the first local chapter of the American Red Cross was formed in Dansville, NY. By September 1881 the efforts are already seen by the community: the volunteers are helping the victims from the Michigan forest fires.
The Angel of the Battlefield was the leader of the organization for 23 years. Over that time, they conducted domestic relief efforts, aiding the United States Army during the Spanish-American War, but also promoting peace. The Red Cross also received the first congressional charter in 1900.
In 1904, Barton was forced to resign as president of the organization because of her style to lead. However, she wasn’t affected by it. After resigning, she founded the National First Aid Society (which now is a part of the American Red Cross).
Red Cross in Wars
Before the WWI, the organization introduced important educational programs such as first aid, water safety and public health. However, when the war started, the Red Cross has seen an incredible growth. If in 1914 the number of local chapter was 107, by the end of the war the number jumped to 3,864. Also the number of volunteers jumped from 17,000 to over 31 million (11 million were Junior Red Cross members).
During the First World War, the public donated over $400 million to support the Red Cross program. With those donations, the Red Cross managed to staff hospitals and ambulances to serve the military and the civilian refugees.
However, their help didn’t stop after the war. They continued the hard work with the educational programs and also helped the victims from different national casualties (Mississippi River floods, the Depression from 1930, etc.)
When the WWII began, the Red Cross was involved to provide their services once again. They helped the US Army, Allies and civilian victims during the WWII by sending over 104,000, providing over 27 million packages and shipping over 300,000 tons of supplies. During the war they also developed a national blood program which collected over 13 million pints of blood.
After the WWII, the blood program developed and managed to collect over 40% of the blood and blood products from the United States. The Red Cross national blood program also helped the victims from the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf Wars.
Humanity showed up in wars by the Red Cross. The entire civilization has to be thankful to them. Fortunately, today, the Red Cross is still one of the most important healthcare organizations from the world.