DARE TO DREAM BIG!: From Shy Young Girl to “Angel of the Battlefield”

Encourage your kids to DARE TO DREAM BIG!

Imagine This: The Civil War has begun and you are very disturbed by all the wounded soldiers returning from the battlefields. You want to help, so you begin collecting donations of food, bandages, medicine, and clothing for the soldiers, and you want to deliver them yourself where they are most needed: on the battlefield. The War Department is shocked. Women can’t be allowed on the battlefields! So what do you do?    

You’re born on Christmas day in 1821 in North Oxford, Massachusetts, the youngest of five children. Your older brothers and sisters dote on you and teach you reading, writing, math, horseback riding, and carpentry.

Although you’re a serious student, you prefer outdoor activities to the indoor pastimes “suitable” for young ladies at that time.

You’re very bright, but you’re also extremely shy. In an effort to cure your shyness, your parents send you to boarding school. Lonely and homesick, you lose your appetite and stop eating, so your family gives up and takes you home.

When you’re eleven, your brother David falls from a roof while building a barn and is seriously injured. For the next two years you nurse him back to health because you believe that if somebody is suffering, you must do something about it.

When you’re sixteen, phrenologist Lorenzo Fowler advises you to become a teacher to cure your shyness, and for ten years you teach school in a small Massachusetts town.    

After Abraham Lincoln is elected president and the Civil War begins, you become very disturbed by all the wounded soldiers returning from the battlefields, so you place an ad in the newspaper asking for donations of food, bandages, medicine, and clothing. It isn’t long before you have more materials than you can store, and you ask to deliver the supplies where they’re most needed--on the battlefield.

The War Department is shocked. Women can’t visit the battlefield! But you continue to ask until finally in July 1862, you obtain permission to travel behind the lines. You’re given a pass for yourself and three volunteers, and you’re also given carts and teams of mules for carrying the supplies.

You tend the sick in nursing stations set up in tents and wagons. You also insist on treating Confederate solders from the enemy’s army which shocks the War Department. The men begin calling you the “Angel of the Battlefield.”

While in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1869 to regain your health, you learn about the Red Cross--an organization that helps the sick and wounded during wartime without respect to nationality.

Inspired by what you’ve learned about the Red Cross in Europe, you help establish the Red Cross in the United States in 1881. You stress a peacetime mission for helping  victims of floods, fires, earthquakes, droughts, hurricanes, and epidemics.

For the rest of your life, you continue to help wherever help helping is needed--from the floods of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, to the battlefields of the Spanish-American War.

By the time you die at the age of ninety-one, you have earned a well-deserved place in American history as a great humanitarian and the founder of the American Red Cross.

“I may sometimes be willing to teach for nothing, but if paid at all, I shall never do a man’s work for less than a man’s pay.”

                                                     Clara Barton (1821-1912)

Excerpted from They Stood Alone!: 25 Men and Women Who Made a Difference by Sandra McLeod Humphrey

For More about


Giving Back:  Clara Barton served others her entire life and was still doing relief work well into her seventies.

Did You Know that Clara Barton loved all animals, especially cats, and that during the Civil War, Senator Schulyer Colfax sent her a kitten with a bow around its neck in appreciation for her work during the Battle of Antietam?

Something to Think about: Why do you think Clara Barton had such a strong need to help others?

Willoughby and I hope you enjoyed this week’s true story and will be back next week for another story to inspire you to DARE TO DREAM BIG!

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