Little Bits of History

May 21

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 21, 2017

1881: The American Red Cross (ARC) is founded. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement was established in 1863 by Jean-Henri Dunant. The businessman was in Solferino on the evening after a battle was fought during the Austro-Sardinian War. There were about 40,000 soldiers dead or wounded that day and many of them were still in the fields. There was a near total lack of medical care available for either side’s casualties. Dunant abandoned his immediate business concern and began to help locals care of the wounded. Upon his return home, he wrote A  Memory of Solferino and sent copies to political and military men throughout Europe. He advocated for national voluntary relief organizations to help the wounded and treaties to help protect those offering medical care.

The Red Cross was the outcome. Established as a private humanitarian institution, politically neutral, and offering life-giving assistance to any wounded soldiers, the 25-member committee created this way to help casualties of war. Today, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies exist in almost every country in the world. There are 190 recognized National Societies with each working in their home country and following international humanitarian principles. Extra projects can also be carried out, if resources permit, and many times the Red Cross or Red Crescent are linked with the national health care system to help provide emergency medical services.

Clara Barton (1821-1912) was an American nurse during the US Civil War. She was also a teacher and a patent clerk. But her most noteworthy accomplishment was founding the ARC and acting as the first president. On May 12, Barton held a meeting at the home of Senator Omar Conger with fifteen people present. At the meeting was Congressman William Lawrence who would serve as ARC’s original vice-president. Barton had learned about the Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland in 1869 when she traveled to help ease suffering in the Franco-Prussian War. After her return, she began work to establish the Red Cross in America. The first chapter was opened in upstate New York.

Today, the ARC is an integral part of the health care system. They are noted for their blood banks and research as well as disaster relief efforts. Disaster relief came early with their first major crisis taking place in September 1881 when over 5,000 people were left homeless after a fire in Michigan. The next major disaster was the Johnstown Flood in 1889. Each year, the ARC responds to more than 70,000 disasters ranging from private house fires to major catastrophes. Some of the most noted disasters of this millennium have been Hurricane Katrina, Comair Flight 5191 crash, the 2007 tornadoes in Florida and Kansas, and the I-35 Mississippi River bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

I may sometimes be willing to teach for nothing, but if paid at all, I shall never do a man’s work for less than a man’s pay.

The surest test of discipline is its absence.

This conflict is one thing I’ve been waiting for. I’m well and strong and young – young enough to go to the front. If I can’t be a soldier, I’ll help soldiers.

I wonder if a soldier ever does mend a bullet hole in his coat? – all from Clara Barton

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