Foundation of the American
The Red Cross Symbol
Henry Dunant (1828 - 1910)
in a photography from 1863.
The International Red Cross
The International Red Cross was formed as an outgrowth of a meeting,
later known as the First Geneva or Red Cross Convention, held in Switzerland
during 1864 to allow civilian volunteers to care for wounded soldiers.
The Swiss businessman Henry Dunant is considered to be the founder
of the Red Cross Movement. His book about the battle of Solferno he witnessed
in 1859 was an impressive appeal against the terrifying inhumanity of the
battlefields and laid the foundation for efforts to create a worldwide
Henry Dunant was the first person to be awarded with the Nobel Peace
Prize in 1901
The American Red Cross
|The Red Cross symbol was adopted at the First Red Cross Convention
as a symbol of neutrality. It was chosen because of two reasons. First,
it was a reverse of the colors of the Swiss flag and therefore acknowledged
the efforts initiated by Switzerland to create this new organization. Second,
the red cross symbol on a white backgound was easily to be reproduced and
recognized on battlefields.
At this time, the United States was engaged in the American Civil War.
On that battlefield, Clara Barton and a small group of other women undertook
the personal mission of caring for wounded and locating missing soldiers.
She formed her own Red Cross organization after the war. However,
the United States refused to become part of the Geneva Convention because
of its isolationist policy against "entangling" foreign treaties. This
political opposition did not change until 1882, when the United States
ratified the Geneva Convention. The American version of the Red Cross society
was then reorganized and finally given an official charter by Congress
Founder of the American
Red Cross - Clara Barton
Clara Barton who received the
following awards for her work in the Franco- Prussian War and other places
to help the wounded and suffering: German Iron Cross, Cross of Imperial
Russia, International Red Cross Medal
||Clara Barton, who had tirelessly fought for acceptance of her organization
into the International Red Cross, governed her society with a leadership
style that created enemies. Although active in bringing relief to several
disaster areas (ranging from forest fires to floods and hurricanes), the
male prejudices of that era were difficult to surmount.
For example, some complained because she was treated at a New York
sanitarium for nervous exhaustion. Accusations over Red Cross funds allowed
her jealous enemies to rally behind her rich and powerful adversary, Mabel
Boardman, who influenced President Roosevelt to initiate a formal government
investigation. Clara Barton resigned from the American Red Cross and started
the rival American First Aid Society (which soon failed).
Nevertheless, Clara Barton's pioneering battlefield nurse duties
and devotion to the fate of Civil War veterans had created a legend that
Boardman was never able to overcome. Barton's own postwar lectures and
writings endeared her to a nation who believed in her work regardless of
her personal shortcomings. Despite Boardman's insistence that Barton had
wildly exaggerated her deeds by an overactive (even deranged) imagination,
Barton was always popularly viewed as the true founding spirit of the American
Red Cross. Today the American Red Cross tradition is directly traced to
the early efforts of Clara Barton, and she has become a heroine in American