Heroes - Lives to Learn From
Each month on the Core Virtues website, we feature the life of a hero or heroine – men and women who have tirelessly pursued excellence in their lives and helped improve the lives of others. We tie each month’s biography to the virtue of the month or to a theme suggested by the particular time of the year.
Compassion, Faithfulness and Mercy
Clara Barton (1821-1912)
Founder of the American Red Cross
“I have an almost complete disregard of precedent and a faith in the possibility of something better. It irritates me to be told how things have always been done. I defy the tyranny of precedent. I go for anything new that might improve the past.”
Civil War nurse and founder of the American Red Cross, Clara Barton fully embodies this month’s focus on compassion, faithfulness, and mercy. Her depth of compassion for
others, whether school children, battlefield wounded, or victims of hurricanes and other
disasters has been unmatched. Her own code was uncompromising: “You must never so much as think whether you like it or not, whether it is bearable or not, you must never think of anything except the need and how to meet it.”
A painfully shy girl, Clara grew up in a large family and was schooled mainly by her brothers and sisters. She began her nursing career at home, when one of her brothers fell ill, and she nursed him back to health. For years she taught school, and actually founded two schools – one in North Oxford, Massachusetts, and a second in New Jersey. But she found her life’s work during the Civil War, when her path-breaking service to the wounded on the frontlines earned her the title, “Angel of the Battlefield.” She went on to found the American Red Cross, which unlike its European counterpart, aided in disaster relief as well. A spectacular children’s book on Clara Barton has yet to be written, but read more about the life of this amazing woman.
Clara Barton (Rookie Biographies). Will Mara.
Children’s Press, 2003. (K-2)
Time for Kids: Clara Barton: Angel of the Battlefield.
Editors of Time Magazine. Collins, 2008 (2-6)
Clara Barton: Founder of the American Red Cross.
(Childhood of Famous Americans). Augusta Stevenson.
Alladin, 1986. (3-6)
A Woman of Valor: Clara Barton. Stephen B. Oats.
Free Press, 1995 (Strong middle school readers and up)
Chunky, definitive adult biography of this amazing woman.