Clara Barton: "Angel of the Battlefield"

Clara Barton provided relief services on battlefields during the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War in Europe, working with bereaved families to identify lost soldiers, nursing the wounded, and aiding the displaced. For most of her life she kept a diary, conducted a voluminous correspondence, and was active in numerous progressive causes. Despite her accomplishments, she expressed frustration with the barriers that confronted her as a woman, and her diaries reveal a lifelong struggle with depression. Her correspondence and autobiographical materials, including poems and draft manuscripts of her books, such as "Story of My Childhood," provide deep insights into her life and work. Tens of thousands of pages of letterbooks include outgoing correspondence sent by Clara Barton and other Red Cross officials, chroncling major world disasters and relief work efforts, as well as official travel, and Barton's reflections on her life in later years.

Many of Barton's papers have never been transcribed and you may be the first person in over a century to read some of these pages in full. These papers document her roles as the “Angel of the Battlefield” and founder of the American Red Cross, which she led for 23 years, organizing relief aid for the most devastating natural disasters of the late nineteenth-century. Also help uncover Barton’s work teaching in Massachusetts and at one of the first public schools in New Jersey, as a government clerk and one of the first female federal employees in the United States, as a director of a women's prison, and as an advocate for women’s suffrage and other reforms.

In December 2019 we asked you to celebrate Barton's birthday by reviewing pages from her diaries and other writings. See the incredible impact volunteers had during the review challenge here.

Volunteer transcriptions now enable search and access for this collection at