Clara Barton Has Woman’s Last Word
New York Herald
February 2, 1903
An article on page six discusses Barton and the controversy with President Theodore Roosevelt’s decision to remove his name and that of his cabinet from the honorary position on the American Red Cross board. In 1903, the American Red Cross was split in a bitter power struggle between Barton and Boardman supporters and the organization's management style. Roosevelt supported Mabel Boardman.
Paper. L 57, W 38.5 cm
Clara Barton National Historic Site, CLBA 4526
Clara Barton Has Woman’s Last Word Writes to President Roosevelt Concerning His Place on Consultation Committee. No Discourtesy Meant. Clara Barton, president of the American National Red Cross, has availed of the woman’s privilege to have the last word in her controversy with President Roosevelt. In a letter addressed to her on January 2 Secretary Cortelyou mentions that the President had been informed that the treasurer of the Red Cross, Mr. W. J. Flather, had resigned, ‘on account of dissatisfaction with what is alleged to be the loose and improper arrangements for securing the needed accountability for and supervision of the disbursements of the money furnished in times of exigency to the Red Cross by the charitable public.’
Mr. Cortelyou requested Miss Barton to make a public announcement that, despite by bylaws of the Red Cross, the President and his Cabinet cannot consent to serve or to have their names used as a board of consultation of that organization. Miss Barton, through her secretary, made public last night her reply, which is addressed to President Roosevelt and not to Secretary Cortelyou. Miss Barton cites the article of the Red Cross constitution providing for a board of consultation to consist of the President of the United States, his Cabinet and certain high officials of the army. She points out that this provision was fully indorsed by President Arthur and was accepted by succeeding administrations. Miss Barton then continues: -
‘Mr. Cleveland, our only surviving past President, will not have forgotten the cordial relations, never interrupted.
‘It would seem that in continuing these time honored relations there existed no usurpation of power on the part of the organization and the idea of the assumption of authority could have presented itself only to such of its members as were new to its records and unacquainted with its history.
‘I recite these facts to you, Mr. President, as an earnest that neither was usurpation practiced nor discourtesy intended in the late needed changes of the articles of the organization.
‘Great trials test characteristics. The fundamental principle of good citizenship is willing acquiescence. The foundation on which all good governments rests it faithful conformity to its laws. All of these great principles are expressed in unquestioned obedience to its rulers.
‘Thus, Mr. President, if in the continuing of your honored name and that of your Cabinet in our administration of the Red Cross under its treaty I have committed an error so grave as to merit a personal reprimand and be required to make an open denial before the world of the privileges I have assumed, the powers I have usurped, the disrespect shown the honored heads of the nation, and my unavoidable and deep humiliation thereat, I shall prove my good citizenship by exact and willing conformity with and obedience to the command by the publication of your honored letter and such replies as I have been able to make, in order that no misunderstanding of your relations can possibly occur.
‘Relying upon the ready acceptance of each appointment, the indorsement and cooperation of every honored head of our nation for a score of years, and remembering more tenderly than all the cordial handgrasp that welcomed us into the present administration in its beginning, and so silently and reverently the vacant place has been supplies, that among many cares and much grief the courtesy of your high permission had been overlooked.
For this error, my Honored President, I earnestly beg your gracious pardon.”
In the appended copy of Mr. Flather’s letter of resignation, dated December 26, 1902, he attributes his action briefly to increased duties as an officer of the bank, with which he is connected.”
Also of interest is the article, “Bellevue to Get Women as Nurses.” Prior to 1861, American society did not consider women fit to be nurses. The work of Clara Barton, as a “battlefield nurse” as well as several thousand women, without any formal nurses’ training, showed what women were capable of doing and American society shifted into acceptance of women nurses. By 1903, there were schools training women as nurses, hospitals employing women as nurses, women nurses worked with the American Red Cross during the Spanish-American War and during major disaster relief operations. An excerpt from this article reads, “At present there are 170 nurses in Bellevue, eighty-two of whom are women. In not other big hospital in this country, it is said, are men employed, except in occasional instances where there are alcoholic wards. The history of hospitals has shown that better results and fewer scandals result from the employment of women.”