Thursday, March 13, 2014


One basic rule of business is to network - make connections - with people that are peers, suppliers, in the non-profit world, potential funders, and fans to use when necessary to grow. If a positive personal relationship is developed, one can usually barter for what they need - a productive symbiotic relationship that benefits everyone. There is no evidence that Clara Barton ever took a business class or read any self-help books about building support for her work, but she was born with an innate ability to network and connect those who could help her that ought to be the envy of all due to her extraordinary success. This support system is rarely mentioned, these important people rarely recognized. In fact, I lobbied for their inclusion as part of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine's upcoming Missing Soldiers Office (MSO) Museum in Washington, but there is just not enough space or time to cover all of Barton much less anyone else. To get these critically important supporters recognized, for their stories are also very interesting and informative, I will have to do that here on the blog.
The list of supporters is a long one, her humanitarian career lasted over 50 years. In fact, her support prior to the war in education and as an independent woman continued to offer help after her focus changed drastically. Just as the U.S. military could not have won the Civil War without the significant help it received from civilians, Clara Barton would be lost to history if not for her friends and fans all over the U. S. A. I have attempted to list these American patriots in something of the level of assistance they gave Barton, although it is all arguable. I am sure to miss quite a few important people since my research has revolved primarily around the Civil War era, and not the later Red Cross years at this point. Most family members are not listed due to their obvious support. My list includes (but is not limited to):
Vice President Henry Wilson - US Senator during the Civil War and Chairman of the Senate Military Senate Affairs Committee, gave significant emotional and material support until his death.

Vice President Henry Wilson

Nephew Stephen E. Barton - Gave emotional and material support all through his adult years.
General Daniel H. Rucker - First officer to assist Barton in getting to the battlefield. In command of the Washington Supply Depots when she first met him, he would eventually be Quartermaster General of the Army. Barton transportation, additional supplies and passes to battlefields.

General Daniel H. Rucker
General (Dr.) William A. Hammond


General William A. Hammond - similar support to Rucker, happy to use Barton to get supplies to the field faster. Sent valuable supplies forward with her for faster delivery.

President Abraham Lincoln - Published a notice naming Barton as head of search for missing soldiers. She never met him in person, although they were in close proximity several times.
Secy of War Edwin Stanton - Gave Barton her only official status as a nurse during the war. When she finally met him in 1865 she was pleasantly surprised to see him walk towards her with hand extended and a smile after hearing of his reputation for roughness.
General Benjamin Butler - Got Barton out to the field in 1864, gave her temporary women's prison reform job after the war.

General Benjamin Butler
Mrs. Frances D. Gage


Frances D. Gage - Barton called her Aunt Fannie and she gave tremendous emotional support. Mrs. Gage helped Barton establish and create funding opportunities for the Missing Soldiers Office.
Annie Childs - Made most of Barton's clothes at no cost during the war. Rallied Women's Aid Societies in Massachusetts to send Barton supplies.
Dorence Atwater - supplied Barton with names of over 13,000 soldiers unreportedly buried at Andersonville Prison, Georgia. Acted as Barton's escort and co-speaker during her initial lecture circuit.

Dorence Atwater

Jules Golay - worked at MSO and provided place for Barton to stay in Europe.
General John J. Elwell - Provided emotional support during Barton's stay in South Carolina. Quartered in a room down the hall, Elwell escorted Barton on many horseback rides, picnics, and dining.

General John J. Elwell
Edward Shaw, Esquire


Edward Shaw - Sublet Barton her rooms on 7th Street during the War. Helped her work at the MSO.
General U.S. Grant - gave Barton and one companion free transportation to assist with MSO and endorsed her work.
Honorable Alexander DeWitt - introduced Barton to Massachusetts society in Washington and helped her get work at the Patent Office.

Honorable Alexander DeWitt
Dr. Jullian Hubbell

Dr. Jullian Hubbell - led field work for Barton during the Red Cross years. Barton's trust of Hubbell cut back on how many disasters she felt compelled to attend to personally. For his loyalty and friendship, Barton left him the Glen Echo home in her will.
General Ethan Allen Hitchcock - endorsed Barton's work, writing her introduction to the Provost Marshall in Annapolis and concurring with Generals Rucker and Grant, and (approved by) President Johnson regarding government printing of the Rolls of Missing Men.
General Ethan Allan Hitchcock
I hope you enjoyed meeting some of Clara Barton's best friends and supporters. Wait! That can not be all?! Can you think of anyone else? Leave a comment with a name of the friend and brief description. Thank you for your contribution in advance!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bully For Clara?

Recently it is reported in the news that workplace bullying is a reality, viz. a report that found that a former lineman for a professional football team was bullied by coworkers with the full support of the coaching staff.  The man accused of bullying the lineman claims that what happened was not bullying but a method of toughening up a player to make them more aggressive.  The investigator wrote that besides racial and sexual slurs aimed particularly at the player, his family was also threatened.  That seems to be a peculiar way of toughening one up.  It is sad to see that bullying is not just taking place in schools, but in the workplace as well. 

Workplacing bullying at its worst!

One may wonder, what does this have to do with Clara Barton?  She was famously bullied while working at the Patent Office in the 1850s.  She was the first woman to receive a permanent position at the same rate of pay as her male coworkers.  Most biographers cover the period without telling the whole story.  They wrote that the men were jealous of Barton's position and her pay since women were considered second class citizens unable to perform the tasks given men. 

As Paul Harvey used to say, "and now, the rest of the story."  In an interview with Lenora Halstead in 1890, Miss Barton gives some details of her work that shed a good deal of light about how her co-workers treated her.  She told Ms. Halstead,
The carriage of the Comm[issioner] of Patents called with the request that I sh[oul]d get in & drive down to see him. It was a most unusual thing for a woman to go to one of the Dep[ar]t[ment]s; in those days there was not a woman on their payrolls not one.  There were a few women, the d[aughte]rs and widow of a man who had died who did his work & rec’d pay in his name, but this was substitution and was almost unknown.  However, I got into the carriage & went to see the Comm. as requested.  In his room the first person I saw was an old friend of my father’s who had known me from childhood and who welcomed me cordially.  The Comm. asked me, he said after he had presented me, if I know of a man of perfect integrity & trustworthiness, whoed [sic] do some important work for him in finding out  where frauds had been perpetrated in his accounts, and I told him I knew of no such man, but I did know a woman who c[oul]d exactly serve him and he told me to send for her, & so here you are. I tried to disclaim his praises but the Comm w[oul]d  not listen to me & only asked me if I w[oul]d take the place? I said, ‘Why, I don’t know why I sh[oul]dn’t, yes, I will.” “Very well,” said he, “I am delighted to hear it now when you can come?” “There you choose, said I. “Can you stay now?” “Certainly, “ and I took off my bonnet & shawl & staid [sic].  I worked in that office from that time; I found the frauds, & my service was the first woman’s name to go on the payrolls.  It made a great commotion.  The clerks; they knew what it meant, & they tried to make the place too hard for me.  It wasn’t a pleasant experience, in fact, it was very trying, but I thought perhaps there was some question of principle involved & I lived it through. (italics mine)
Now there's the rub-- Barton stated that she was brought into the Office to investigate fraud and she found some, certainly leading to the dismissal of clerks and examiners.  The Commissioner, Judge Charles Mason, became famous as the man who reformed the Patent Office.  Evidently, Barton conducted the investigation.  It seems reasonable that these clerks were not only jealous of Barton's unusual position, but she also posed a direct threat to their employment.  That threat would certainly cause some men to react by making Barton's life miserable.  Perhaps Barton was not the sweet innocent victim of abuse that writers have made her out to be.  It does not excuse the abuse, but it does give a clearer understanding of the situation at the time.  Barton had every right to feel justified in her work exposing illegal activities in the Office, but leaving that tidbit of information out implies Barton did nothing to cause the abuse.

Iowa Supreme Court Justice Charles Mason

I have to admit, it may well be that this story lost credibility with interpreters because of the lateness of the interview.  Barton was 68 years old in March of 1890.  Any well-trained historian knows that the farther away from an event the less accurate it will be.  But then, family and friends remarked on Barton's keen mind up until her death at age 90. 

Unfortunately, there was nothing Barton could do about the bullies, but it is a shame Mason did not do anything to stop it, or some other man at the Patent Office.  Evidently, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, that is not unusual and sometimes, as in the case in football, it appears even conducted or sanctioned by leadership.  The institute points out that workplace bullying actually reduces the productivity and revenue for an organization that does nothing to stop it.  One would think that from a purely business perspective that would be incentive enough for businesses to be pro-active in preventing bullying.  Although no one should have to endure the abuse Barton did, I admire her for her determination to ignore the abuse and continue her work.  She could be one tough lady.

For more information about today's problems with workplace bullying, go to

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Little Miscommunication: Three Cheers for Clara Barton!

In 1882, a veteran's reunion group asked Clara Barton to come speak at an event.  At this time strong lobbying efforts for women's rights by Susan B. Anthony and her followers obviously annoyed some men.  According to Barton, the group reassured their membership stating,
We can promise our citizens a rare treat of patriotic eloquence such as is seldom listened to  X X  and we can assure them that there will be no cause for disappointment, they will not have thrust upon them a lecture on woman's rights after the style of Susan B. Anthony and her clique.  Miss Barton does not belong to that class of women.

As I read this, I thought about the silence before a young child screams after being hurt, pictured the steam escaping adult human ears when furious- as forceful and noisy as a steam engine's boiler being reduced, pictured the veins popping and red neck that Gen. Robert E. Lee's staff allege he displayed when highly annoyed...oh boy, this is going to hit the roof!  I was not disappointed. 

Her response:
My blood boiled as I read and faced an audience of which the most exacting speaker might be proud, not even standing room in the aisles.  And I treated them to their feast of 'Patriotic eloquence' a vim I had no power to control.  I could feel the indignation hiss between my teeth as the words rolled almost unbidden, but I held firmly to my subject till it was ended, and when they had shouted and cheered to a tiger I resumed- in the following text--

     'Soldiers, you have called me here to speak to you on the war we lived together.  I have done it.  Now I have a word for you.  I wish to read this paragraph which you have used to help fill your hall,-' I read it very slowly and distinctly.

     That paragraph, my comrades, does worse than misrepresent me as a woman, it maligns my friend and it allures the brightest and bravest work ever done in the land for either me or you.  You glorify the women who made their way to the front to seek you out in your misery and nurse you back to life.  You call us angels.  Who opened the war for us to go, and made it possible, who but that detested set of women who for years had claimed that women had rights and should have the privilege to exercise them, the right to her own property, her own children, her own home, to her freedom of action, to her personal liberty, and upon this other women have claimed the right and took the courage if only to go to a camp and drag a wounded man out of a swamp [?] and try to save him for his family and country.

     And soldiers, for every woman's hand that ever cooled your fevered brow, staunched your bleeding wounds or called life back to your famished body you should bless God for Susan B. Anthony, Cady Stanton and their followers.  No one has stood so alone, so unhelped as Susan Anthony and Soldiers I would have the first monument that is ever raised to any woman in this country raised to her, and that monument will be raised and your daughters, boys will help proudly, gratefully help to set its granite blocks for everlasting age, set it where all may see.  And I would reproduce the eloquence of Webster at Bunker Hill-, [']Let the earliest light of the morning gild it and parting long linger and play on its summit.[']

     Boy's, three cheers for Susan Anthony!

   And the very windows shook in their easements.

I believe that cleared any misunderstandings up quite well as well as establish "what class of woman" Clara Barton was, don't you?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Barton Hall of Fame Nominee Lucy Stone

While considering how to convey the suspected reasoning behind Clara Barton's nomination of Lucy Stone Blackwell, the best short phrase that keeps coming to mind is "The Original American Women's Libber.”  During my vetting process, one article on Stone-Blackwell states, "Stone was known for using her maiden name after marriage." Unlike some of the other women ahead of their time in the 19th century, the choice did not seem to affect her marriage.
Lucy Stone

Lucy Stone, like Barton, hailed from Central Massachusetts. Working through genealogical records found no biological kinship between Barton and Stone even though only a mere 19 miles separate their hometowns. Stone also, like Barton, grew up believing she could accomplish almost anything a man could and never understood why anyone considered women inferior to men. While Barton would go on to a career in humanitarianism, Stone would promote women's suffrage.

Barton and Stone also shared the teaching profession early in their adulthood that impacted their ideas about women's rights. For Barton, teaching was somewhat a family occupation; both her sisters taught and her older brother Stephen superintended the Oxford, Massachusetts school system for a time. Stone also followed in her older siblings footsteps, and left the profession when paid less than her brother for substituting for him. Barton left when the public school committee in Bordentown, NJ hired a man as principal at the school she had organized and established. Neither would go back to the classroom as a teacher.
Stone received her baccalaureate degree from Oberlin Collegiate Institute in Ohio on August 25, 1847, becoming the first female college graduate from Massachusetts. Influenced by abolitionist and women's suffrage lecturers such William Lloyd Garrison, Sarah Grimke, and Antoinette Brown, Stone decided on a career as a public speaker. Surprisingly, the men in her family supported the idea, while Stone's mother and sisters did not. Stone began giving anti-slavery lectures in Massachusetts, but by 1849 also spoke in New York and Pennsylvania. National recognition came by 1851.

Henry B. Blackwell

Unlike Barton, Stone married Henry Blackwell after a two-year courtship. Blackwell became Stone's manager and took the unusual step of a prenuptial agreement stating the couple were partners, would share costs of maintaining a household equally, and allowing Stone to keep her last name. Blackwell went so far as to include a protest of man's superiority over his wife and vowed not to do so. The Worcester (Massachusetts) Spy published the protest and made national headlines. Stone would bear one daughter, Alice, born in 1857, who went on to follow in her mother's footsteps.

Lucy and daughter Alice

During the 1850s and 1860s, Stone founded or helped found several national organizations beginning with the National Women's Rights Convention in 1855, and including the Women's National Loyal League in 1863, the American Equal Rights Association in 1866 along with Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass and others. She founded the American Woman Suffrage Association in 1869 with Julia Ward Howe in a split from Stanton and Anthony's National Women Suffrage Association who only allowed women members. The two Associations would merge in 1887.

Older Lucy Stone

Stone spent much of her career writing and lobbying for state and national petitions to support her cause. She spoke to Congress in 1891 regarding women's suffrage although women's suffrage would remain undone until 1920. Stone also founded and edited the Woman's Journal in 1870, which ceased publication in 1831. She also led a unaccepted movement to change women's clothing, sporting a "bloomers" dress at public appearances early in her speaking career.  Lucy Stone died at her home in Dorchester, Massachusetts on October 18, 1893.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

To Write Or Not To Write...

It seems most would agree that to make a reputation as an influential professional historian, one must write and publish not only books, but all sorts of printed matter for public consumption.  Yesterday, at the main museum I noticed a new book in our library, Lincoln and Whitman, by William E. Barton, Clara Barton's cousin.  Funny I thought, I was just looking through his biography of Miss Barton to find some outstanding quotes for part of the CBMSO's exhibits, and spoke to the museum's Director of Research about his peerless credibility as a Barton biographer.  The inside cover of Lincoln and Whitman is filled with several reviews by his peers outlining his expertise as a Lincoln scholar.

Part of my work at the museum is to develop material for all types of programming.  Naturally, my first thoughts centered on what to write and publish in regards to my research on Barton.  But a problem arises due to the amount of work already available to the public.  One may find so much varying material on Barton already that covers just about every aspect of her being as to give a fairly balanced perception of this legendary woman.  William Barton's biography and Stephen Oates' focus on the Civil War years (A Woman of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War), two favorites, leave almost no stone unturned.  While writing and designing programming material is still necessary to cover specific aspects the museum will highlight, the question still remains- what major work could be accomplished on Barton that will fascinate and inspire interested citizens as well as catch those who are blissfully unaware of the extraordinary importance of a long-gone heroine?

Civil War Supply Wagons
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
First and foremost, it is disappointing that no one has compiled and published her writings.  One of my most profound delights is reading about the experiences and thoughts of a historical figure from their own words.  Barton left literally thousands of documents available so that her life might be remembered and are the basis of cousin William Barton's biography.   She thoughtfully kept her writings and appointed friends and colleagues to a "literary committee" led by William Barton to ensure their availability as reference material.  Accomplishing this feat is now in progress.

Secondly, has Barton been remembered for her most important achievements?  I suspect, for myself, that is the foundation of any new work.  There are times when one, after realizing the effect bias has on Civil War era histories, may have concerns about missing or discarded profoundly helpful lessons overlooked in favor of casting other light.  Should not avoiding repeating past mistakes be history's primary goal?  Or avoiding "reinventing the wheel" while people suffer?  Unfortunately, the US military did reinvent the system of emergency evacuation of wounded during the First World War because the post Civil War draw-down forgot Dr. Jonathan Letterman's groundbreaking work.  Let us remember these important lessons for the future.

Circa 1902 at the Int. Red Cross Conference (age 80!)
Courtesy of

Remembering Clara Barton is an important step to avoiding some of the pain and trauma that accompanies catastrophic events.  Exploring Barton's life and experiences may inspire many great values and actions such as courage, self-reliance, determination, compassion and tolerance.  As for myself, I know I can use more of those things, it seems unimaginable to have enough of any of them.  Anyone interested in learning more may come to an informal study being held at the Missing Soldiers Office site next Monday, Jan. 13th at 6:30pm.  A few lifetime learners will be discussing Stephen Oates' book A Woman of Valor at that time.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Highlighting Barton's Work

Clara Barton is an American Icon because of some extraordinary achievements made during her lifetime.  They were the result of hard work, but primarily born from determination and perseverence.  We can separate her work into several areas from her overall role as a pioneering American woman, primarily:

International Relief Organizer
Champion of Human Rights

As a Humanitarian, Barton believed in public service and fulfilling the needs of victims of war and natural disasters.  While her focus evolved through the American Civil War, she recognized the needs of other victims while participating in the Franco-Prussian War and reacted to the requests for assistance after man-made and natural disasters.  Once she realized her calling in organizing and delivering aid to those in need, her expansion from military to civilian based work became obvious.  Barton used the expansion to convince the U.S. government that a disaster relief organization was in America's best interests.  Thousands of relief organizations exist due to her international leadership in promoting relief activities.

As an Educator, Barton believed that people could best help themselves through a good education.  She championed education through a long teaching career, and her establishment of the first public school in Bordentown, NJ.  After establishing the American Red Cross, she lobbied within the organization for first aid education.  After its rejection and her resignation from the ARC, she established a non-profit organization, the National First Aid Association of America, to meet the need.  Later absorbed by the ARC, it is a requirement for many public servants and volunteers across the United States today.

As an International Relief Organizer, Barton assisted in saving lives through the support of the military medical system during the American Civil War, the International Red Cross (IRC) during the Franco-Prussian War, and her participation as American diplomat in several Geneva Conventions in the late nineteenth century.  She introduced and lobbied for what became known as the "American Amendment" of the Geneva Convention expanding the IRC's mission to include non-military disasters.  Barton herself traveled to war-torn countries to provide relief to starving and/or homeless refugees, ignoring societal norms of prejudice aimed at minority groups.  She believed that refugees should not be given free aid beyond temporary food and shelter, but given the means to help themselves.  Barton accomplished this in Europe by developing a clothing manufacture through skillless refugee women that ultimately stimulated their economy, taught the refugees a trade, and clothed needy families.

As a Champion of Human Rights, Barton ensured the inclusion of all victims of social injustice when delivering aid to the needy.  She believed in, as she said, "a hand up not a hand out."  During the American Civil War, she often advocated for the fair and equal treatment of the wounded, without regard to creed or race.  During one incident, she went so far as to abandon the field to return to Washington, wake and report the circumstances to her friend and patron, Senator Henry Wilson, and inspire him to immediate action!  On several occasions during the War, she cheerfully worked around established protocol to assist those in dire straits, significantly improving victims chances of survival and quality of life.

Barton also advocated for equal citizenship regardless or race or gender.  She felt that anyone who contributed to society should have a voice in government.  Not only a life-long women's suffragist, she championed suffrage for African-American men and made that a priority, alienating some friends. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas in Washington - Civil War Style

Please pardon my recent negligence - the team at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine is working feverishly to build the exhibits for the new Missing Soldiers Office Museum and I recently spoke at the Historical Society of Washington's Historical Studies Conference on a different subject, which garnered a great deal of last minute preparation.  My frenzied activities reminded me of an old saying..."Be careful what you wish for..."!  Nevertheless, back to Miss Barton.

Clara Barton spent several years in Washington during Christmas, which also happened to be her birthday.  My impression from reading diaries and letters is that although she did not dislike the holiday, it wasn't very exciting to her, at least as an adult.  Of course, the Civil War era was quite stressful under the best of circumstances and her committment and frustration working to establishing a national humanitarian relief organization also took a toll on her emotions.  I regret to say that I have not had time to delve deeply into her later years - I've seen some Christmas cards from her that were quite nice in the early twentieth century.  

Description of Washington, December 9, 1861
The streets are thronged with men bright with tinsel, and the clattering hoofs of galloping horses sound continually in our ears.  The weather is bright and warm as May, for which blessing I feel hourly to thank the great Giver of all good gifts, that upon this vast army lying like so many thousand herds of cattle on every side of our bright, beleaguered city, with only the soil, for which they peril life, beneath, and the single threads of white canvas above, watching like so many faithful dogs, held by bonds stronger than death, yet patient and uncomplaining.”
Thomas Nast engraving for Harper's Weekly 1863 - a personal favorite

Letter written December 24, 1861, “…to relate of our big city, grown up so strangely like a gourd all in a night; places which never before dreamed of being honored by an inhabitant save dogs, cats, and rats, are converted into ‘elegantly furnished rooms for rent,’ and people actually live in them with all the city airs of people really living in respectable houses, and I suspect many of them do not know that they are positively living in sheds, but we, who know perfectly we what shelters them.  Well, the present aspect of our capital is a wide fruitful field for description…’

Early Santa by Thomas Nast
Greatly influenced Santa's iconic image in the US