American history was changed forever when the American Civil War was relentlessly fought between the Union and the Confederacy for four long, gruesome years between 1861 and 1865. The divide between the North and the South was unavoidable. This war was unavoidable. About a year into the war, in 1862, a woman by the name of Clara Barton fearlessly volunteered her time to be a nurse to the wounded soldiers. Her commitment gave her a well-earned nick-name as “The Angel of the Battlefield” by those she was surrounded by.
The major social issue during this time was the American Civil War. It occurred at a time when America was truly struggling as a country within its own walls. This was a brutal time in history when America was not united, Americans were killing each other because each side believed in opposite things. The North was more industrialized where people were working in factories and were anti-slavery. The South relied heavily on agriculture and owning slaves to work on their farms. The conflict between these two sides resulted in many intense battles that lead to a staggering death count. According to PBS, “More than 3 million Americans fought in it, and over 600,000 men—2 percent of the population—died in it.” At a time like this, the United States was in desperate need for a woman like Clara Barton.
Barton dedicated her life serving other people. She contributed to the nursing profession in monumental ways. One example of how she contributed to nursing is how she assisted soldiers in receiving the type of care that she believed they deserved. It gave her hope to keep advocating and fighting for “military officers to improve their protocol where soldiers weren’t neglected.” She brought her own medical supplies to use and pushed for them to go to the hospital instead of lay in an ambulance where they did not get adequate care. Another way she contributed to nursing was by creating the American Red Cross after experiencing how beneficial the International Red Cross was while in Europe. That wasn’t the only organization she started. She also began the National First Aid Society where its sole function was to teach public first aid classes and make the first basic first aid kits. Later, the National First Aid Society became another branch of the American Red Cross.
Clara Barton’s life as a nurse impacted the way we view nurses in today’s society. Her influential power has continued to last for years even after her death. She is still someone we associate with being one of the first women to contribute to nursing. At that time, being nurse was seen as a “man’s job”. She allowed the world to view women as more than capable of being in the nursing profession as well as volunteering to serve in the military in some way. She proved women can successfully work under duress and terrifying situations. She was almost killed while tending to a wounded soldier. In September of 1862, during the Battle of Antietam, a bullet shot through the sleeve of her dress. It luckily did not graze her, but instead hit and killed the man she was treating. The American Red Cross is another display of how Barton’s contributions influenced nursing today. They “provide more than 40% of blood products in this country.” They also include an inspiring mission statement that says, “The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”
To conclude, Clara Barton’s life was anything but extraordinary. Her extreme humanitarianism and devotion for protecting others broke the chains on women in the healthcare industry. Because of her strong efforts, we now have the American Red Cross where 90% of its personnel are volunteers.