Medical Icon: History of The American Red Cross
The American Red Cross is the largest volunteer organization in America. Founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, the American Red Cross began with a goal to aid those individuals impacted by war. As a voluntary humanitarian organization, the American Red Cross has always offered impartial care to all who need it. The American Red Cross responds to approximately 70 thousand disasters a year from assisting individuals to responding to national and natural disasters with the aid of over a half-million trained volunteers. Each year the American Red Cross continues to call together friends, neighbors, and communities to respond to emergencies and the need for blood nationwide. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross as well as the Red Cross Crescent Movement. By being a part of this extended outreach of humanitarian relief workers, the American Red Cross is able to provide assistance around the world.
Clara Barton established the American Red Cross in 1881 at a time when women were not generally involved in social change. She was in her 40’s when she risked her life by bringing medical supplies that she had gathered to the Civil War battlefields. She traveled to Europe and learned of the newly formed Red Cross efforts there in 1870 and was 60 years of age when through determination and personal effort convinced Congress to become part of the Geneva Treaty and went on to found the American Red Cross. Though the first organizational meeting for the American Red Cross took place in Clara Barton’s apartment in Washington, friends wanting to honor her and support her efforts formed the first chapter of the American Red Cross in Dansville, N.Y. in 1881. This first chapter began before the signing of the Geneva Treaty in 1882. The Geneva Treaty was also known as the Red Cross Treaty, as it called for international agreement to provide humanitarian aid to protect sick or wounded military during war without regard to nationality. The treaty also specifically allowed for Red Cross volunteers to give aid where needed.
Within days of that first American Red Cross Chapter being formed in 1881, they were called on to bring relief to victims left homeless due to major forest fires in Michigan which killed hundreds and destroyed over one million acres. The timely respond by the Red Cross proved they could be counted on to respond to disasters on the home front as well as on the war fronts. The first peacetime responds of the American Red Cross took place answering the call to offer assistance to the thousands of people left homeless after the dam broke causing the great Johnstown Flood in 1889. The American Red Cross was responsible for constructing the first “Red Cross Hotel” in Johnstown to provide merchants and businessmen a place to stay during the rebuilding efforts following the flood. At the time of the flood, there were other Red Cross chapters in existence working independently of the American Red Cross but the extensive relief provided by the American Red Cross firmly established it as the major relief organization is today.
Today, the reach of the American Red Cross extends worldwide and includes international and domestic disaster assistance, support to military personnel, families during crisis, educational training in health and safety including CPR/AED, lifeguard, and water safety courses, first aid training, and caregiver classes. The American Red Cross also supports international relief efforts that promote developmental programs in developing countries. The American Red Cross is well known as the largest supplier of blood in the United States organizing blood drives that encourage over four million people per year to donate bloodand blood products.
To learn more about the American Red Cross and Clara Barton, consult the following resources.
Clara Barton National Historic Site – This is a virtual museum exhibit sponsored by the National Parks Service. Details include the role played by Clara Barton in founding the American Red Cross in 1881 where she remained in charge until 1904. This site include a great gallery of photos and a listing of her many recognitions for amazing humanitarian efforts and leadership.
What is the American Red Cross? (PDF) – This PDF is a good overview of What the American Red Cross is and how you may get involved in volunteer efforts. There are local chapters Nationwide. They all follow the principles and core functions shared in this document.
Clara Barton: Founder of the American Red Cross – This site shares the history that joins Clara Barton and the American Red Cross. There is also detailed information found here concerning significant dates, topics, and people who set the foundation and standard of service for this relief effort organization.
Clara Barton, 1821-1912 –Civil War Nurse & Founder of the American Red Cross – Here is an introduction to Clara Barton, as a Civil War nurse who brought her own much needed medical supplies into the battlefield. While in Europe during the war between France and Prussia in 1870, Clara Barton encountered the Red Cross. The Red Cross was a new organization offering humane services to all war victims under a neutral flag. Upon returning home, Clara Baron made it her mission to establish the American Red Cross as a relief organization to aid during natural disasters.
Clara Barton’s House: Home of the American Red Cross – This complete lesson plan is designed to be used to teach within a unit covering 19th and 20th –century American history. It is a good example of the social change occurring that period and may be used to illustrate the role of women in the history of the United States. Facts concerning Clara Barton’s Civil War service and role in establishing the American Red Cross include a good selection of visual aids in pictures and maps.
Clara Barton in Dansville: 1866 and 1876-1886 (Home of the American Red Cross) – This is a historical account of Clara Barton’s time in Dansville, N.Y. where the first chapter of the American Red Cross was established. The first meeting to organize the new American Red Cross was held in her apartment in Washington in 1881, but friends in Dansville established the very first chapter of the American Red Cross August 22, 1881 even before Congress ratified the articles of the Geneva Convention treaty.
The American Red Cross Responds to Michigan fires in 1881. -The First Disaster the American Red Cross Responded to was in Michigan. In 1881, massive forest fires raged and the newly formed American Red Cross brought in food, supplies, and first aid to the thousands left homeless.
The Johnstown Flood in 1889 and the American Red Cross – The great flood of 1889 occurred in Johnstown when a torrential storm caused a dam to burst. Over two thousand people lost their lives. Responding to the flood disaster in June of 1889 just days after the flood washed away so many homes and lives was the first relief effort of the American Red Cross during peacetime.
American Red Cross Disaster Relief 2010 Report – This report provides a thumbnail sketch of the five major disasters covered by the American Red Cross in 2010 here in the United States and in American Samoa following the Tsunami and earthquakes. In addition to relief efforts in Samoa, the American Red Cross brought relief to those affected by floods in ten states and tornado torn areas in Alabama and Mississippi.
American Red Cross Online Training – The American Red Cross provides free digital access training materials covering first aid, CPR/AED, lifeguard, swimming, babysitting, caregiving, as well as training Red Cross volunteers, and Red Cross instructors. Red Cross volunteer training covers service to the armed forces and their families, disaster relief, and International Humanitarian Law. Contact your local Red Cross chapter to learn more.
The American Red Cross: Military Benefits – Clara Barton set the standard for tending the needs of men in the military during the Civil War. Today, the American Red Cross provides a vital communication link between military members and their families during a crisis. The American Red Cross also assists in emergency financial aid and casualty travel assistance as well as numerous information and referral assistance.
Fort Lee, Red Cross Team up to Lead Teens – An example of the Red Cross helping the community and military families by sponsoring summer camps for military teens. The summer camps were so successful, the Red Cross is also sponsoring a youth leadership counsel in the Fort Lee area.
Blood Donation Eligibility Requirements (American Red Cross) – According to the American Red Cross, every 2-second, someone will need blood in the United States. To stay current with the need, 38 thousand blood donations are required every day. Find out the requirements for being a blood donor here.
The American Red Cross says, Blood Donation is at Historic Low – According to this report in the Norwich Bulletin, this summer has the been the worst in history for blood donations. While the need for blood never slows, summer travels and holidays have always meant a slowdown in donations, but this summer has been the worst in a decade according to this report.
American Red Cross: Community Preparedness Webinar Series – The American Red Cross in partnership with Citizen Corps offers a webinar series to assist communities in preparing emergency disaster plans. Through planning, communities and the American Red Cross can respond to emergencies as quickly as possible.
The American Red Cross Reflects on Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina – The Dallas Red Cross remembers the massive relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina and uses the experience to sharpen their focus, awareness, and preparedness levels to be better able to handle future disasters.
American Red Cross, Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities (PDF) – This guide published by the American Red Cross is an example of the many ways they help prepare individuals and families to cope with natural disasters. This guide includes information for putting together a disaster supply kit, preparing a plan and important lists to fill out and have ready to take with you should you need to leave your home quickly.
The American Red Cross Celebrates AmeriCorps Week – AmeriCorps members work with the American Red Cross to extend their assistance to under serviced areas in greater Illinois. The American Red Cross uses partnerships with other service organizations to reach more families and communities nationwide as well.
Facts About the American Red Cross – This is a listing of important facts about the American Red Cross. It is the largest United States volunteer organization. Victims of disaster are never asked to pay for Red Cross assistance. For more interesting fact including the seven principles that guide the service of American Red Cross volunteers nationwide, check this webpage.
American Red Cross: Facts About Blood and Blood Donors –Blood must come from donor, it cannot be manufactured. Yet, less than 38 percent of the entire U.S. population is eligible to give blood. Each blood donation has the potential to save three lives.