Clarissa Harlowe “Clara” Barton (December 25, 1821 – April 12, 1912) was a pioneer nurse who founded the American Red Cross.
In 1869, during a trip to Geneva, Switzerland, Barton was introduced to the Red Cross and Dr. Appia; who later would invite her to be the representative for the American branch of the Red Cross and even help her find financial beneficiaries for the start of the American Red Cross. She was also introduced to Henry Dunant’s book A Memory of Solferino, which called for the formation of national societies to provide relief voluntarily on a neutral basis.
When Barton returned to the United States, she inaugurated a movement to gain recognition for the International Committee of the Red Cross by the United States government. In 1873, she began work on this project. In 1878, she met with President Rutherford B. Hayes, who expressed the opinion of most Americans at that time which was the U.S. would never again face a calamity like the Civil War. Barton finally succeeded during the administration of President Chester Arthur, using the argument that the new American Red Cross could respond to crises other than war such as earthquakes, forest fires, and hurricanes.
Barton became President of the American branch of the society, which held its first official meeting at her I Street apartment in Washington, DC, May 21, 1881. The first local society was founded August 22, 1882 in Dansville, Livingston County, New York, where she maintained a country home.