The American Red Cross, founded by Clara Barton in Washington, D.C. on May 21, 1881, has been and is the premier humanitarian organization in the United States and throughout the world by its other Red Cross networks.
On her visit to Europe after the Civil War, Clara Barton became familiar with the Swiss inspired aid organization and upon her return to the United States campaigned for the American Red Cross and in 1882 was successful in having the Geneva Convention protecting the war injured, ratified.
For 23 years Clara Barton led the Red Cross and during her leadership, among numerous aid programs, initiated the first domestic and overseas disaster relief and worked closely with the United States military during the Spanish-American War. Her efforts were successful in including peacetime relief work as part of the global Red Cross network, known as the American Amendment.
In 1900 it received its first congressional charter and once again in 1905. With its most recent charter in May 2007, it defined its purpose of giving veteran relief and being a conduit for communication between American armed forces members and their families, while also providing national and international disaster relief.
With the outbreak of World War I, the Red Cross experienced its most rapid growth from 107 chapters in 1914 to 3,864 in 1918 ballooning membership to 20 million adult and 11 million Junior Red Cross members. Its efforts during the war were unprecedented. It manned hospitals and ambulance companies and recruited 20,000 registered nurses to serve the military. The influenza epidemic of 1918 was also fought by its nurses.
After the war, its peacetime work of providing services to veterans and initiating programs of safety training, accident prevention, home care for the sick, nutrition education and disaster relief was, with the advent of World War ll, shifted to once again working with the U.S. military, Allies, and civilian war victims. To care for the injured soldier, 104 thousand nurses were enrolled, it prepared 27 million packages for American and Allied prisoners of war and shipped 300,000 tons of supplies overseas. Its blood program collected 13.3 million pints of blood for the wounded combat soldier.
With its vast experience in supplying blood to soldiers, it introduced the first nationwide civilian blood program that now supplies 40 percent of the blood and its products in the country. In the 1990’s it met the demands of the times in supplying a safe supply of blood to the country. Their roll in caring for the soldier in conflicts in Korea, Viet Nam, and the Gulf war goes without saying.
Wherever there is need for disaster relief due to acts of nature, terrorism or world conflicts the American Red Cross is there. Their work is possible by civilian contributions of money, time and supplies to their many volunteers. Their mission is important and always thankful when disaster strikes.