April 12 marks the 100th anniversary of Clara Barton’s death and the 151st anniversary of the American Civil War. Before she became the “angel of the battlefield,” Clara Barton was a teacher and an advocate for public education. After her experiences helping the sick and wounded during the Civil War, Clara combined her teaching skills with her passion for humanitarianism and became the advocate and champion that we celebrate her as today.
While many of her contributions as the founder of the American Red Cross are well known, not so well known is the lasting impact of her work following the Civil War to locate missing soldiers, collaborate with representatives from the newly formed international Red Cross in Europe, and to speak out publicly and advocate through government channels with three US presidents and administrations to adopt the first Geneva Convention.
Students in classrooms around the country learn about Clara Barton yet these significant dates provide opportunities to highlight the significance of her contributions in the early years when the Geneva Conventions, the Red Cross and modern international humanitarian law (IHL) were just beginning to develop — examples of the importance of humanitarian law that are as relevant today as there were so many years ago.
A series of upcoming events and resources are available to support educational efforts or lessons about Clara Barton’s legacy and contributions to the Red Cross:
The C-SPAN3 American History Channel’s American Artifacts will feature a program on Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office on April 15th at 8:00am, 7:00pm and 10:00pm, EST. (Check local listings for exact times for Part 1 and Part 2.) A preview of the show is available on YouTube:
The Clara Barton National Historic Site will host a series of events from Miss Barton’s life, work and legacy: www.nps.gov/clba.
Angel of the Battlefield: Clara Barton 150 years ago at the Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg: Clara Barton’s response during this historic battle 150 years ago this year (September 17, 1862) is featured in a dramatization for students and teachers in a lesson on “Humanitarian Acts: What Can Bystanders Do?” in the American Red Cross free online educational resources for teachers and students: The American Civil War: A Humanitarian Perspective, inspired by the Exploring Humanitarian Law (EHL) curriculum. These lessons can help educators connect American history to IHL and principles, connecting lessons of the past with issues of the present.
Here are some additional resources for your students.
Book: Angel of the Battlefield by Ann Hood