Clara Barton, born on December 25, 1821, in Oxford, Massachusetts, is credited as the founder of the American Red Cross.
Although not trained in medicine, Barton served as a nurse for an invalid brother for two years prior to the Civil War. While living in Washington, D.C., in 1861, Barton organized a relief program for soldiers. There, she learned from the wounded from First Bull Run of the suffering due to lack of medical supplies. Barton then organized donations and began her own organization of distributing supplies.
In 1862, Barton was granted a pass to travel with Army ambulances “for the purpose of distributing comforts for the sick and wounded, and nursing them.” For the next three years, Barton worked in Virginia and South Carolina.
After caring for the casualties from the Battle of the Wilderness she gained national attention, and served as superintendent of nurses under Major General Benjamin Butler. During this time, she also organized a program to help locate men listed as missing in action. The Red Cross, which she founded in 1881, grew from her Civil War experiences.
Barton continued her work with the Red Cross until her retirement in 1904. She died in 1912, outside Washington, D.C.