Clara Barton is known by many primarily as the founder of the American Red Cross, but she dedicated her life to many humanitarian causes. She first found her calling at age 10, when she tended to her severely injured brother. She was the only one who didn’t give up and continued to care for him after others felt no more could be done, nursing him until he made a complete recovery. Clara was a very shy child with a love for reading and spelling. Her interest in education assisted her in overcoming her timidness by becoming a teacher at the young age of 17. She was later contracted to open the first ever free public school in New Jersey. In 1855 Clara relocated to Washington, D.C. and began working for the US Patent Office. In 1861 she rented two rooms on the 3rd floor at 437 Seventh Street, N.W. which were later transformed into a storeroom for supplies and a base for relief operations after she began helping to nurse soldiers, some that she grew up with, during the Civil War. Clara gained a lot of support from other people who believed in her cause and she expanded into adjoining rooms from her living quarters to continue providing support to the Union Soldiers, despite opposition from the War Department and among field surgeons. After the war Clara directed the Missing Solders Office from 1865 to 1868, also from this location. During this time she became well known by delivering lectures around the country about her war experiences. This led to an introduction into the suffrage movement and involvement as an activist for civil rights. As a means of rejuvenating her mind and spirits from exhaustion after her lecture tour she embarked on a European adventure. It was during this trip, while in Geneva, Switzerland, that she was introduced to the Red Cross. She felt a passion for what the organization stood for and thought that it was something needed in the US. In 1997 a carpenter was asked to inspect 437 Seventh Street for demolition and he discovered a plethora of Clara Barton items in the attic, including signs, Civil War soldier’s socks, an army tent, Civil War-era newspapers, and many documents relating to the Office of Missing Soldiers. This led to the property being saved from demolition and was later restored as a part of history.
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