Her thoughts — Ladies of dedicated service

Published 12:30 pm Friday, April 22, 2022

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If I could talk to Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton I would ask these women, who dedicated themselves in service to others in need, how their faith propelled them to working tirelessly in the nursing field.

We know that Florence Nightingale “The Lady with the Lamp” worked endlessly as a nurse providing medical career to those in need despite opposition because of sexism. Clara Barton was a progressive in the fields of education, government and nursing even though sexism reared its ugly head. It began when Clara was born Clarissa Harlowe Barton on December 23, 1821 in North Oxford, Massachusetts to Captain Stephen and Sarah Barton. Like Florence she learned about taking care of the sick at a young age when she nursed her brother David, after he suffered a head injury from a fall, learning to give medication to him.

Clara had the steadfast support and encouragement of her parents in all her endeavors and after receiving her teacher’s certificate at age 17 in 1839 she taught school for 12 years in Canada and West Georgia when most educators were men. While teaching in Highstown, New Jersey Clara learned about the lack of public schools in neighboring Bordentown. In 1852 she opened the first ever free school in the state in Bordentown. The town built a new school and Clara served as principal there until, unfortunately, she was replaced by a man. Subsequently, in 1853 Clara moved to Washington, D. C. and was employed as a U. S. Patent Office clerk — the first woman hired in that position with a salary equal to a man. Clara worked there until 1858. She suffered verbal abuse from her male co-workers, her role was reduced and she was fired by President James Buchanan due to opposition to women working in government.

Once President Lincoln took office Clara was hired back as a copyist and in 1861 saw the results of the Civil War when federal troops entered D. C. Although Clara didn’t attend nursing school her desire to help kicked-in and she risked her life to get supplies, clothing and food to the injured men of the Sixth Massachusetts Infantry.

Even though she worked with organizations such as the U. S. Sanitary Commission Clara collected supplies herself, networked with others for assistance and stored and distributed supplies to the soldiers. In addition, Clara offered spiritual support to the men by praying with them along with writing letters to their loved ones for them.

So dedicated was Clara that she entered the battlefield in the center of the action bringing medical supplies and her nursing skills to the soldiers in the field. Following the Battle of Cedar Mountain in northern Virginia in August 1862 Clara was given the name the “Angel of the Battlefield” because she came to a field hospital at midnight with a wagonload of supplies. Clara served the troops at Harper’s Ferry and Petersburg as well as other cities. In addition, Clara established the Office of Correspondence with Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army operating out of her home for four years. She and her assistants answered over 63,000 letters and identified over 22,000 missing men.

In 1881 at age 59 Clara Barton established the American Red Cross serving as its president until 1904 drawing her inspiration from her experience with the international Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland whose goal was to protect the sick and wounded during wartime no matter the nationality.

On April 12, 1912 Clara died at age 90 of pneumonia in Glen Echo, Maryland and is buried in North Cemetery in Oxford, Massachusetts Like Florence Nightingale she has numerous honors including the Clara Barton National Historic Site and the 1973 National Women’s Hall of Fame inductee.

Florence Nightingale and Clara are two women who answered the call which God placed on their lives. It was an anointed and guided hand that no matter the obstacles they always served others. I have my answer.

Judy Moore lives in Wylliesburg and is a tour guide at the Central High Museum. She can be reached at v5agabond2@gmail.com.