Clara Barton Chronology 1870-1912

July 18, 1870

Franco-Prussian War - Napoleon III declared war on Prussia and its German allies.

September 17, 1870

Miss Barton met and established a lifelong freindship with the Grand Duchess Louise of Baden, daughter of Kaiser Wilhelm I. Under the sponsorship of the Grand Duchess and the International Red Cross, Miss Barton left for the besieged city of Strasbourg, France. She met Antoinette Margot, who became her co-worker, travelling companion, and translator. In Strasbourg, they organized relief efforts and established sewing factories in order to provide clothing for the residents and employment for women.


Miss Barton directed relief work in Paris for six weeks, established workrooms in Lyon, and provided assistance in Besançon and Belfort.

1872 - 1873

Miss Barton suffered from nervous exhaustion and temporarily lost her eyesight. She traveled to England in an attempt to recuperate.

October 1873

Miss Barton returned to the United States, but nervous strain continued to plague her. Her condition worsened after her sister, Sally Barton Vassall, died.

May 24, 1874

Clara Barton's sister, Sally Barton Vassall, died.


Miss Barton moved to Dansville, New York, first to a sanitarium and later to her own home. Relaxation, a healthful diet, and congenial company allowed her to regain her health. She met Julian Hubbell, a chemistry teacher, who eventually became her most devoted follower.

1877 - 1881

Miss Barton concentrated on educating the public and garnering support for an American society of the Red Cross. She wrote and distributed the pamphlet, The Red Cross of the Geneva Convention. What It Is. She met with President Rutherford B. Hayes to inform him about the Red Cross and enlisted the aid of friends to help publicize the organization.

May 21, 1881

The American Association of the Red Cross was formed. Miss Barton was elected president at a meeting held June 9 in Washington, DC.

August 22, 1881

The first local Society of the American Association of the Red Cross was organized in Dansville, New York. Over the next few months, additional chapters were formed in other towns and cities.

Autumn 1881

Michigan - Forest Fires - Some 1.5 million acres were destroyed and nearly 500 lives were lost in just over 5 hours. The American Red Cross assisted in rebuilding more than 50 dwellings and distributed tons of aid material. Julian Hubbell directed the effort as the first chief field agent.

March 16, 1882

On March 1, President Chester A. Arthur signed the Treaty of Geneva. Following unanimous ratification by the Senate, America joined the International Red Cross.

Spring 1882 and 1883

Mississippi River Floods - Miss Barton directed American Red Cross relief work during flooding along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, while aboard the ship Mattie Belle.

May 1883

Miss Barton was appointed superintendent of the Massachusetts Reformatory Prison for Women in Sherborn. She accepted the temporary position at the request of Governor Benjamin F. Butler, but resigned after eight months. She spoke at the International Conference on Prison Reform held in Saratoga, New York.

1884 - 1890

Miss Barton delivered numerous lectures promoting the Red Cross.

February 1884

Ohio River Floods - Severe flooding left over 5,000 families homeless. Miss Barton directed the relief effort and the American Red Cross distributed $175,000 in cash and supplies.

August 1884

Miss Barton travelled to Europe as one of three U.S. delegates to the International Conference of the Red Cross at Geneva, Switzerland. The "American Amendment," which allowed the Red Cross to provide peacetime disaster relief, was adopted due in large part to Miss Barton's innovations with the American Red Cross.

December 1884

Dansville, New York, Typhoid Fever Epidemic - The American Red Cross provided financial and medical assistance to the stricken town.

November 1885

Galveston, Texas Fires - Railroads provided free transportation as the American Red Cross donated supplies, including 130 barrels of flour.

December 1885

Balkan War Relief - At the request of the International Red Cross, American societies provided financial assistance during the Bulgarian and Serbian War. The Depauw and St. Louis Red Cross Societies in Missouri provided $500 and $200, respectively.

March 1886

Miss Barton moved to Washington, DC.

Summer 1886

Miss Barton attended the National Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) in San Francisco, California.

September 1886

Charleston, South Carolina, Earthquake - Clara Barton travelled to the scene and the American Red Cross donated $500. Offers were made by Miss Barton for additional assistance, but were not accepted.


Central Texas, Drought - Miss Barton's report of the situation motivated the state legislature to send $100,000 to the stricken area.

June 1887

Miss Barton volunteers the services of the American Red Cross at the National Drill and Encampment in Washington, DC. Within 6 days, 200 cases of illness were treated in a mobile hospital.

September 1887

Miss Barton served as a delegate to the International Congress of the Red Cross at Carlsruhe, Germany.


Miss Barton attended meetings of various women's suffrage associations and spoke at several rallies in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. She served as a vice president and was a featured speaker of the First International Woman's Suffrage Conference in Washington, DC.

February 1888

Mount Vernon, Illinois, Tornado - Miss Barton and the American Red Cross assisted 3,000 homeless by providing food, shelter, and clothing.

March 15, 1888

Clara Barton's brother, David Barton, died.

August 1888

Jacksonville, Florida, Yellow Fever Epidemic - Miss Barton visited affected areas and coordinated relief with the Howard Association. Red Cross nurses immune to the disease were provided by the New Orleans chapter.

May 31, 1889

Johnstown, Pennsylvania Flood - Miss Barton arrived to direct relief operations after over 2,000 died and thousands more were left homeless. During four months of work, over $200,000 in supplies and $39,000 in cash were provided. This disaster relief program became the most celebrated effort in the early history of the American Red Cross.


Red Cross provided disaster relief following fires in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a drought in South Dakota, and severe storms across Kentucky, Texas, and Iowa.


A building was constructed for Miss Barton as part of Edwin and Edward Baltzley's Chautauqua in Glen Echo, Maryland, a few miles northwest of Washington, DC. The building was primarily used as a Red Cross warehouse for several years.


Clara Barton wrote the poem, The Women Who Went to the Field.

March 1892

Russian Famine Relief -Supervised by Clara Barton and Julian Hubbell, the American Red Cross sponsored its first overseas operation. Flour and cornmeal shipments fed 7,000.

1893 - 1894

Sea Islands, South Carolina, Hurricane - After a hurricane and tidal wave left over 5,000 dead, the American Red Cross labored for ten months to aid the predominantly African American population of the barrier islands.


Armenian Famine Relief, Ottoman Empire - Miss Barton travelled to Istanbul and supervised the relief of the starving and sick through the encouragment of more advanced farming techniques and hygiene practices. Miss Barton distributed over $115,000 in aid despite the hostile conditions presented by the Ottoman-Armenian conflict.

February 28, 1897

The warehouse in Glen Echo, Maryland, became Clara Barton's permanent residence and national headquarters for the American Red Cross. She remodeled and occuppied the house until her death in 1912.


Miss Barton directed American Red Cross relief work in Cuban reconcentrado camps. This humanitarian work on behalf of civilians continues until 1900.

February 15, 1898

Explosion of the U. S. S. Maine - "I am with the wounded," Clara Barton telegraphed President William McKinley following the explosion of the USS Maine. The blast killed 266 crew members. Two days earlier, she had dined aboard the ship with Captain Charles Sigsbee.

April 25, 1898

Spanish-American War - Clara Barton continued to coordinate civilian relief, established orphanages, and supported military hospitals. The first relief ship to enter the harbor of Santiago following its surrender was The State of Texas, with Miss Barton and Red Cross workers on board. She also met Colonel Theodore Roosevelt and provided supplies for wounded Rough Riders following skirmishes near Siboney Bay.

October 1898

Miss Barton was elected honorary president of The National Society of the Spanish War. Miss Barton resigned from the position after learning from Susan B. Anthony that the society did not accept African American members.


Miss Barton published, The Red Cross in Peace and War.

June 6, 1900

The incorporation of American National Red Cross provided for protection of the organizations important insignia.

September 8, 1900

Galveston, Texas, Hurricane and Tidal Wave - Based in Galveston and Houston, Miss Barton directed her last major field relief effort in the wake of a storm that left 6,000 dead. In a two-month period, the operation distributed $120,000 worth of money and supplies, as well as 1.5 million strawberry plants.

May 1902

Miss Barton led the US delegation to the Seventh International Conference of the Red Cross in St. Petersburg, Russia.


The American Red Cross established the short-lived Department of First Aid for the Injured.


Although aligned with the Universalist Church, Clara Barton became a defender of Mary Baker Eddy and the Christian Science faith. Like many people of the Victorian era, Miss Barton was also interested in faith healing, astrology, and spiritualism.

December 1903

Butler, Pennsylvania, Typhoid Fever Epidemic - Miss Barton travelled to the scene, distributed supplies, and then turned the relief project over to local authorities.


Miss Barton published, A Story of the Red Cross.

May 14, 1904

Clara Barton resigned as President of the American National Red Cross, in the wake of mounting criticism of her management style, ability, and age.

April 1905

Miss Barton established the National First Aid Association of America and served as honorary president for 5 years. The organization emphasized basic first aid instruction, emergency preparedness, and developed first aid kits. Ambulance brigades were formed in conjunction with police and fire departments.


Miss Barton published, The Story of My Childhood.

April 12, 1912

Clara Barton died at her home in Glen Echo, Maryland, at the age of 90. Burial followed at the family cemetery plot in Oxford, Massachusetts.

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Last updated: August 3, 2021

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