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  • Fiona Kuo

Red cross on the bill

Updated: Feb 10

      George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Jackson; Why are these names so familiar? Well, you see them every day; not in person, of course, but on that little piece of paper that you carry around in your wallet every day. Yes, these are the men that have their faces printed on your money. Why? Because they are important to US History. Without George Washington, many presidential customs may not have been adopted– America may not  even exist had Washington not braved the harsh winter at Valley Forge and inspired his soldiers to endure the roughs of war. Without Abraham Lincoln, who knew how long it would take for slaves to be emancipated— would America remain divided between the North and South? However, why are not there any women and any of the bills? Although these men have made significant impacts country, many more equally deserving women have contributed thoroughly to the growth of American culture. Without many of these brave and charitable women, America would not be where it is today— we would not have our American Flag, millions of slaves would not have escaped through the Underground Railroad, and women might still have been unable to vote. We might not have the American Red Cross, which has saved millions of lives by providing relief to families in need of medical attention and progressing medicinal research.


         

Enter Clara Barton, the president and founder of the American Red Cross. Serving as president of the American Red Cross for 20 years, she began her career in nursing when she was 10 years old by successfully nursing her brother after he fell off the barn roof. She was born on Originally a teacher beginning her career in 1839 at the age of 17 in her hometown, Massachusetts, she found this job displeasing due to the low wages and hence, left to attend the Liberal Institute of Clinton, NY in 1850. In 1852, Clara Barton taught at a private school in New Jersey, where she established the first free school in New Jersey, and soon 600 students were enrolled. Despite her charitable achievement, a man was assigned as principal of the school, leading Baron to resign as a teacher and suffer from severe depression.


        By 1854, Clara Barton became one of the first females to work in a government position. She worked as a clerk at the Patent Office in Washington D.C. and earned the same wage as a man until Secretary of Interior, Robert McClelland, "raised opposition to women working in government". Her pay was reduced, but she managed to earn $70 to $80 a month. When President James Buchanan became president in 1856, however, she had her position taken away, and she suffered another period of depression.


        When President Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, Barton returned to the Patent Office as a temporary typist. Barton raised funds for medical supplies and gathered donations of food and clothing for the soldiers. She established a federal office for missing soldiers and in private, she advertised in newspapers for donations– Barton even quit her job at the Patent Office to transform her house into a warehouse for donations. Inspired by the movement to aid the Northern soldiers, Barton desired to get even more involved– she requested to help the wounded on the battlefield. Though she was initially rejected, the 360,222 Union men that were injured needed all the medical support they could, so Barton gained her position as a field medic. She found the wounded and ill in terrible condition on the battlefield and fought over the lack of food and water for the soldiers, however, the soldiers declared her to be a "troublemaker" and refused her access to the army supplies. Despite her efforts, Barton was consistently cast aside simply because she was a woman; however, this did not deter her perseverance.


        Near the end of the war, Barton set up an office in Annapolis, Maryland, with her own funds, to help identify fallen soldiers. Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, asked her to travel to Andersonville Prisoner-of-War in Georgia and identify unmarked graves, where she successfully identified 13,000 men, and by 1868, she identified 22000 missing men, all without receiving proper funds. Tired of being taken advantage by these egocentric men, Baron soon left for Geneva, Switzerland in 1869, and worked for the Red Cross there.  The Geneva Treaty established the Red Cross in 1964 when 11 countries agreed to establish rules for the treatment of wounded soldiers and prisoners– however, the United States government did not sign the treaty because they were opposed to signing treaties with foreign countries, preferring to remain “neutral.” Thus, after working in Geneva, Barton worked to promote the Red Cross in America by working with Congress to accept the Geneva Treaty in 1882. 22 supporters established the American Red Cross and


       Clara Barton was elected President and served until 1904. After resigning, she served as a superintendent of a prison for women in Sherborn, Massachusetts. Barton later served and organized the National First Aid Association, which developed the original first aid kits we use today. Clara Barton has achieved contributed greatly to civil war efforts and further engagement in medicine, inspiring women today to pursue STEM-related fields and push the boundaries of traditional gender roles. Allowing Clara Barton to receive the same recognition as the well-versed men we see in US currency today would further inspire other women and people to be as generous and resilient as her.


       During the Civil War, women could not do much, but they did their best to help the soldiers by providing drives that would donate clothes and nursing supplies and other supplies. Despite their hard work and their generosity, they were blamed for draft riots because they did not like sending the men off to war. In reality, many women went with their husbands and children to the war to attend to them and the other soldiers to aid the war effort as nurses. Clara Barton was one of the many women who voluntarily attended to the soldiers' needs and advocated for community aid to help the less fortunate receive the medical attention they need– without the American Red Cross today, the 2 million people depending on the organization for sanctuary and medicinal support would struggle.


       Women have been depreciated for so long despite having done so much for our country, yet they do not get as much credit. Without women like Clara Barton, who knows if the Civil War soldiers would have survived? Who knows how many more casualties there would have been? Without women like Clara Barton, we might not have a foundation that cares for people’s welfare. We might not have a first-aid kit. We would not be able to provide sufficient relief to families across the nation. Life today and the things we know today may be different without people like Clara Barton– thus, she deserves to be recognized for her efforts as any other former male leader.

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