December 25, 1821 – April 12, 1912
Clara Barton was the youngest of five children born to Stephen and Sarah Barton of Oxford, MA. She was close to her family throughout her life. Clara nursed her brother David, who later served as an assistant quartermaster for the Union Army during the Civil War, through illness as a child. This was her first experience of nursing. Clara learned generosity in spirit from her father. She probably gained her love of animals growing up on her family's farm. In addition to pets such as cats and birds that she kept in her Glen Echo home, Barton also maintained a small barn where she had a least one cow and other small farm animals.
Barton’s vast correspondence reveals her strong personality, beliefs, and passions. She was an avid reader who in her limited spare time, enjoyed sewing and painting. Miss Barton hosted family and friends at her home. She enjoyed a wide range of activities; from singing, playing the piano, charades, dancing, sewing, painting, drawing, card and board games, and horseback riding.
Books and Art
Barton was well-read and amassed an extensive book collection that spanned a range of topics, from religious and medical issues of the day to the Red Cross and fiction. Her library, in particular, refect her deep religious convictions. Barton's home was filled with decorative arts and paintings.
Miss Barton was celebrated throughout America and the world for her humanitarian work. Children, schools, and streets were named in her honor. She received medals, certificates, jewelry, furniture, song birds, and sea shells as gifts of appreciation. Because of her fame, she was invited to live in Glen Echo, MD by the Baltzley brothers. They built her a home in Glen Echo that became the headquarters for the American Red Cross in 1897. After her death in 1912, the memory of her contributions continued to inspire tributes.
Fashion and Accessories
Miss Barton's clothing reflected the height of mid-Victorian fashion. Her accessories included jewelry and hair ornaments. Many of the accessories Clara Barton owned were gifts to her from friends and admirers. In the many photographs and/or portraits taken of Miss Barton throughout her lifetime it is apparent that she took pride in the many medals and pins she received, such as the Imperial Cross of Russia (CLBA 36), wearing them proudly.
Leisure and Entertainment
Victorian-era entertainment included social events and individual activities at home. Miss Barton hosted family and friends. She enjoyed sitting out on the porch, a game of cards, singing, playing the piano, charades, dancing, sewing, painting, drawing, and board games. Popular activities outside the home included attending the theatre and musical events, sporting events, and participating in church groups.
An accomplished writer, Clara Barton wrote about the American Red Cross for the media and kept a diary documenting her Spanish-American War experiences. She wrote an autobiography documenting her youth. It was the first of a series of her books. Her personal beliefs and religious convictions, in particular, her membership in the Universalist church, played a large role in her life.
Historic Photographs and Prints
Barton's life was well-documented by photographs. She was drawn to technology, as seen in the latest equipment she acquired for Red Cross volunteers and workers. She was likely drawn to the new and exciting technology of photography.