The American Red Cross from Clara Barton to the New Deal
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Title Page, Copyright
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On the day before Thanksgiving in 1997, federal government carpenter Richard Lyons climbed the narrow staircase in a dilapidated downtown Washington, D.C., building to check for leaks in the roof. As he walked through the unlit, cramped rooms on the building’s third floor, Lyons felt someone tap him on his shoulder. Turning to find ...
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PART I: THE BARTON ERA
1. Miss Barton Goes to Washington
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The origins of the American Red Cross (ARC ) can be found in the life of its founder, Clara Barton. A single, socially awkward, yet adventurous schoolteacher from North Oxford, Massachusetts, Barton moved to Washington, D.C., and created an independent life for herself as a patent clerk. When the Civil War broke out around her, ...
2. Transatlantic Transplant
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The Red Cross movement began as a wartime expression of humanité—a concern for mitigating the suffering of combatants. In 1862, Genevan entrepreneur Henri Dunant proposed an international conference to create volunteer aid societies for the treatment of the wounded and a universal set of rules under which they would ...
3. National Calamities
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The American Red Cross began as a small band of workers bringing supplies and compassion to the scene of mass suffering, in much the same way Clara Barton had begun her Civil War aid work. She and her tiny ARC staff sought merely to “supplement” the efforts of the federal government, the states, and local charities in aiding ...
4. The Misfortunes of Other Nations
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In the 1890s, the American Red Cross began to address humanitarian crises abroad. Although Clara Barton had mentioned “the misfortunes of other nations” in her pamphlet on the Red Cross, during its first ten years her organization limited its work to assistance in “national calamities” at home. As the century’s end approached, however, colonialism, mass ...
5. Cuba and Controversy
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In Cuba, American humanitarianism danced its first waltz with American expansionism. The dance began when Clara Barton and others decided to aid starving Cuban peasants who had been driven from their land by civil war. Although the American Red Cross strived to remain neutral, it and other humanitarian groups working in ...
PART II: THE BOARDMAN ERA
6. Barton versus Boardman
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When a hurricane flattened Galveston, Texas, in September 1900, Clara Barton responded in much the same way she always had: she focused on meeting people’s urgent needs with little regard to keeping detailed balance sheets of donations and expenditures or checking with the American Red Cross treasurer before making ...
7. Shifting Ground
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Its years of turmoil behind it, the new American Red Cross finally seemed to be standing on solid ground. President Theodore Roosevelt enthusiastically supported it, upright businessmen and eminent government officials made up its governing Central Committee, and Mabel Boardman eagerly took on the daily tasks of running ...
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Between 1905 and 1915, Mabel Boardman ran the American Red Cross. Once ruthlessly devoted to bringing down Clara Barton, she became doggedly dedicated to building up the organization. “She is the boss, the manager, the impresario and the ring-master of the American National Red Cross,” wrote syndicated newspaper ...
9. Fighting on Two Fronts
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The World War brought the American Red Cross to the center of American military and civic life and also transformed it into a sprawling, decentralized institution. In 1915 the organization had only twenty-two thousand members; just four years later, it had enlisted more than 20 million adult members and its chapters covered “practically ...
PART III: BETWEEN THE WARS
10. Triage for Terror
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When a wave of race riots roiled the United States during the turbulent postwar years, the American Red Cross became involved in assisting the survivors. This so-called disaster relief tested the limits of the ARC mission and ideals. The organization’s leaders wondered out loud whether such a neutral organization, which had thus far confined ...
11. Baptism in Mud
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In the spring of 1927, the Mississippi River began to swell under the weight of rains that had been falling relentlessly since the previous September. Every day it grew wider, forcing its tributaries to back up and sometimes even run upstream. With each burst through a supposedly unbreakable levee, the roaring river seemed to mock the ...
12. Scorched Earth
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During the summer of 1930, corn roasted on the stalk and vegetables burned in their beds, while the lower Mississippi River shriveled into an anemic stream. The drought spread through the still-struggling 1927 flood states and reached across a wide swath of the country, from Montana to Virginia. Farm production in many areas dropped ...
13. A New Deal for Disasters [Includes Image Plates]
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When Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) took office in March 1933, both supporters and opponents of the new president overestimated the changes he planned to make in American government. Many on the left expected him to nationalize banks and intervene with a strong hand to fix the country’s economic ills, while some ...
Epilogue: Blood and Grit
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The American Red Cross remains a powerful quasi-governmental philanthropy in the twenty-first century. Just as Clara Barton filled gaps in the Civil War Washington bureaucracy with her benevolent enterprises, the ARC even now addresses needs not met by formal government or the private sector. It does so, as it has all along, by channeling ...
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In writing this history of the American Red Cross, I sought to produce an independent work of scholarship, one that is free from any outside influence or agenda. The task proved more monumental than I could have imagined. I did not take any money or direction from the Red Cross or any other organization with a vested interest in the ...
Images [Image Plates - pages unnumbered]
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List of Archival Sources
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Page Count: 404
Illustrations: 19 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2012