Although she has no relation to Hawkeye, Clara Barton was a superhero in her own right.
Born on Christmas Day in 1821 in North Oxford, Massachusetts, Clara was a shy girl who grew to find herself skilled with reading and writing and a natural aptitude for caring for others. At only 10 years old, she nursed her older brother back to health after a tragic fall that doctors had little hope from which he would recover. Thanks to his little sister, he managed to fully recuperate, defying the odds.
Clara also had a passion for aiding the mind and became a schoolteacher in 1839 at the tender age of 17. By all accounts, she was very successful and truly enjoyed teaching until an incident in 1852, where after pioneering the opening of a new and first of its kind free school in New Jersey, she was demoted to Assistant after the school board decided that the facility was too large to be run by a woman.
She moved to Washington D.C. in 1855 and became a clerk in the US Patent Office. In 1861, the Civil War introduced itself to Clara in the form of injured members of the Massachusetts Militia who were transported to Washington D.C. Clara volunteered and learned quickly how to acquire, store and distribute medical supplies. She also took the time to visit the wounded, reading to them and offering to write letters to their loved ones for them. It was at this time that Clara felt she found her true calling as a nurse.
Despite opposition, Clara was granted permission to work as a caregiver and organizer on the front lines of the Civil War. Although she technically worked for the Union, Clara treated patients from both sides of the conflict with compassion and self-taught skills.
Although supplies were not always in abundance, Clara made do and improvised when necessary. She also seemed blessed, avoiding some very close calls on the front lines. Union General Benjamin Butler named her the “lady in charge” but the soldiers had another name for Clara: The Angel of the Battlefield.
After the Civil War ended, Clara headed up the Office of Missing Soldiers, where she attempted to answer letters from distraught family members of missing soldiers. Over 4 years, she located and assisted in the burial of over 40,000 previously unaccounted for remains.
Traveling the country and speaking about her nursing experiences during the Civil War allowed Clara to meet influential people who would later play prominent roles in her endeavors. While traveling in Europe, she met with the head of the Red Cross in Switzerland and from there, her new path as set.
After 8 years of hard work, Clara Barton was named the President of the newly created American Branch of the International Committee of the Red Cross. She retired in 1904 after 23 years of exceptional humanitarian work, at the age of 83.
Living during a time when career women were the rare exception, Clara Barton stands out not only for her pursuit of numerous career paths but for her ability to include all those learned skills and connections and channeling them all into founding and firmly establishing the American Red Cross as an entity focused on charitable work for people in need. Throughout her accomplished life, Clara lived it all for the comfort and restoration of others; she lived as only a nurse could.
Read more about Clara Barton here.