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The two most important periods of Barton's life were the Civil War and the 22 years she spent as president of the American Red Cross. She was very proud of her own wartime service as well as that of other women who made similar sacrifices during this period. Her total dedication to the American Red Cross gave it a secure foundation for a service which continues today. To commemorate her extraordinary dedication to service, Congress established the Clara Barton National Historic Site in 1974. It was the first unit in the National Park Service dedicated to honoring achievements by a woman.

Activity 1: Dealing with Disasters
Have the students research newspaper accounts of recent natural disasters. Examples include Hurricanes Hugo (1989), Andrew (1992), and Iniki (1992); the San Francisco earthquake (1989); and the Northridge earthquake (1994). How did the Red Cross respond to these disasters? What services did the Red Cross provide for the victims? Invite a representative of the local Red Cross chapter to speak to the class, focusing on how the organization deals with disasters both nationally and locally and what other services it provides to the community. Have the students compare the methods used by the early Red Cross under Barton's direction and the methods used by the modern organization. How have the methods of transportation and medical care changed over the past 100 years? (Students may need to refer to some of the sources listed in Activity 3.)

Activity 2: Women's and Men's Work
Ask each member of the class to name an occupation they would be interested in pursuing. Make a chart comparing those listed by males with those listed by females. Are the lists different? Using the local yellow pages or city directory, have students look up several occupations such as attorney, doctor, dentist, mechanic or construction worker. What percentage of those listed are female? What are some of the obstacles women face professionally? Compare these obstacles with those faced by Clara Barton and other women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. How are they different? How are they alike? Have some obstacles disappeared? Have new ones appeared? Ask students to write an editorial to the local newspaper expressing their views on equality.

Activity 3: Researching the Life of Clara Barton
Students may wish to do further reading about Clara Barton. Have them present their research in oral or written reports or in panel discussions. The most complete biography of Barton is Elizabeth B. Pryor, Clara Barton Professional Angel (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987). An interesting book about her involvement in the Civil War is Cathy E. Dubowski, Clara Barton, Healing the Wounds (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Silver Burdett, 1991). To read about other National Park Service sites associated with Clara Barton consider the following: Philip Foner, ed., Frederick Douglass on Women's Rights (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1976); Ovid Futch, The History of Andersonville Prison (University of Florida Press, 1968); David McCullough, The Johnstown Flood (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978); and James V. Murfin, The Gleam of Bayonets (Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 1965).

Activity 4: Local Assistance Groups
Have students (individually or in small groups) investigate the other organizations in their area which offer assistance, including the Salvation Army, YMCA, YWCA, community centers, homeless shelters, boys and girls clubs, churches, etc. What similarities and differences exist among the organizations? How were these organizations started? Compare the origins of these organizations with that of the Red Cross. Discuss how the similarities and differences help each organization meet the needs of the community. Brainstorm ideas for assistance within their own community and discuss ideas with an organization representative. Work with the organization representative to design a project that would allow the students to assist the organization.

 

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