Celebrating World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day May 8

By: Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

May 8th is World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, in which the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) collectively thanks its 13 million volunteers worldwide—about 2,000 of which are in Northern Ohio—for their dedication, bravery, kindness, and selflessness.

This day also coincides with Sound the Alarm, as American Red Cross volunteers and staff are helping area residents develop fire safety plans through doorstep visits. Please read this article for more information.

May 8th is the birthday of Henry Dunant, who was born in Geneva, Switzerland in 1828, founded the IFRC, and received the first Nobel Peace Prize. After witnessing one of the bloodiest battles of the 19th century, Solferino, and assisting in its aftermath, Dunant wrote A Memory of Solferino, published in 1862. After detailing the horrors of the battle and describing efforts to care for the wounded, Dunant offered a plan that the world’s nations form relief societies and appeal to everyone to volunteer. The following year the Geneva Society for Public Welfare appointed Dunant and four others to examine putting the plan into action. This began the foundation of the Red Cross. More on Henry Dunant is here

It would take more than a century, two world wars, and the 1918 flu pandemic before a Red Cross day would be created, however. During that time, the need and effectiveness of Red Cross societies became even clearer. Following World War II, the Board of Governors of the League of Red Cross Societies requested the study of an International Red Cross Day. It was approved two year later, and May 8, 1948 became the first commemoration of what we now know as World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day. Further details are here.

In 2021, the Red Cross’s mission and services are as needed as ever, and the resilience, dedication, flexibility, and selflessness of its volunteers and staff has continued during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the past year has been especially active. In the US, 2020 had the greatest number of billion-dollar disasters in a single year. Here in Northern Ohio, the Red Cross has continued to respond to disasters—including more than three home fires every 24 hours, on average—collect and distribute much needed blood, teach life-saving skills, assist members of the armed services and their families, and help educate the community on home fire safety, virtually and with doorstep visits during tomorrow’s Day of Action.

We recently profiled a few extraordinary volunteers during Volunteer Week. As a Red Cross volunteer, I have been privileged to see such caring and dedication firsthand and have been honored to work alongside some of the kindest, most effective, and remarkable people I have met. Please see here if you would like to join us.

On this World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, we celebrate those who put the Red Cross’s mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering into action, each day.

Then and now: Celebrating Black History Month, recognizing African American contributions to Red Cross

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

February 1, 2021- It’s 1860, and there’s an outcry from voters who can’t accept the results of that year’s election. Abraham Lincoln is declared winner, without carrying a single southern state. Before his inauguration, seven southern states secede from the union, followed by others soon thereafter. Civil war ensues. 

As the Civil War concludes in 1865, Clara Barton is commissioned by Abraham Lincoln to locate missing soldiers. She sends 63,000 letters and locates 22,000 missing men. The American Red Cross is founded 16 years later in 1865 in Washington, D.C., and is still in charge of contacting armed service members.

With Lincoln gone, Reconstruction effectively fails, and thousands of freed slaves are forced to return to the plantations and their former owners. Many stayed along the eastern coastline. In 1893, the country’s largest recorded hurricane hit the coastal islands with a storm surge of 10 to 12 feet and 20-foot waves on top of that, killing up to 3,500 inhabitants, 92% of which were Black.

Clara Barton answered the call to this huge disaster, the biggest to date for the Red Cross. The U.S. Congress refused to provide any aid short of some seeds, tents and a couple deep-draft boats. All the funds to care for 30,000 displaced persons had to come via requests for donations from Clara, who got newspapers to run the story across the entire eastern half of the U.S.

Frances Reed Elliott Davis

Possibly motivated by Clara’s efforts, 10-year-old Frances Reed Elliott Davis was growing up in North Carolina and had lived through that storm. Despite being orphaned, she taught herself to read and write. Wanting to become a nurse, she entered nursing school in 1910. She was the first African American to pass the final board exams in Washington, D.C. Eight years later, she became the first officially recognized African American nurse to be accepted into the Red Cross Nursing Service.

That same year, Red Cross nurses combated the worldwide H1N1 influenza epidemic. With the returning injured troops from World War I, and the raging pandemic, Red Cross volunteers grew to 20 million adults and 11 million junior members. 

Later, in Michigan, Davis helped organize the first training school for African American nurses at the Dunbar Hospital. In the 1940s, Davis established a childcare facility that caught the attention of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who helped plan for and fund the center.

Mary McLeod Bethune

About this time, Mary McLeod Bethune was serving as an advisor to President Roosevelt. She became the highest ranking African American woman in government when the president named her director of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration, making her the first African American woman to head a federal agency.

Bethune was one of five committee members who made recommendations on the blood plasma project, the use of African American staff in overseas service clubs, the enrollment of African American nurses, and the representation of African Americans on local and national Red Cross committees and staff departments.

Dr. Jerome Holland

During his time as president of Hampton University in 1964, Dr. Holland became a member of the American Red Cross Board of Governors. He served as a member until he resigned in 1970 to become the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden. He was the second African American to lead a delegation in any European nation.

Dr. Holland was later appointed by President Jimmy Carter to be the chairman of the American Red Cross Board of Governors in 1979, and was the first African American to hold this position. Because of his commitment to the Red Cross, he was appointed again in 1982.

While serving on the board, Dr. Holland showed a passion for blood research and took the lead in consolidating growing laboratory operations for the Red Cross Blood Services program. He also encouraged Red Cross regions to integrate their volunteers so important services could be extended to the entire community, regardless of a person’s ethnicity or background.

We salute them

History has a way of repeating itself. Whether it is a pandemic flu, a giant, slow-moving hurricane or the need to improve blood research, the same needs are still being met by the Red Cross today. To contribute to the cause, click here. To volunteer and do your part to help others in need, click here.

Other African American contributions

To read more about the contributions of other African Americans to the American Red Cross, you might like these articles:

Steve Bullock – Acting President of American Red Cross in 1999

Frederick Douglass – Friend of Clara Barton

Gwen T. Jackson – American Red Cross Board of Governors

Dr. Charles Drew –  Blood Bank Pioneer

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Founder’s vision paved way for volunteers to support those in need today

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

December 25, 2020- Clara Barton is one of my all-time heroes.

Born 199 years ago today, Clara shook off her 19th century “woman’s place” and founded a movement that continues to move hundreds of thousands of people to action.

“We are all in Clara Barton’s debt for her vision to found the American Red Cross,” said Gail McGovern, president of the American Red Cross. “We still follow her example today whenever we deliver comfort and care to the victims of disaster, support our men and women in the armed forces, and donate our blood to help save lives. Clara saw the urgent needs of others, and she created a way for generations of humanitarians to help meet those needs.”

Circa 1865. Matthew Brady portrait of Clara Barton.

Clara Barton was 60 years young when she established the American Association of the Red Cross in 1881.

By then, she had been a trailblazer many times over: Founder of the first free school in New Jersey, first paid female employee of the U.S. Patent Office, “Angel of the Battlefield” for supplying critical supplies for the Union soldiers wounded during the Civil War, and head of the postwar Office of Missing Soldiers. On a trip to Europe to “relax” after a decade of war, she directed relief for civilians on both sides of the Franco-Prussian War under the auspices of the Swiss-based International Committee of the Red Cross.

In the 1880s, Clara and her fledgling organization began helping survivors of floods and famines, storms and outbreaks of disease. In 1897, at the age of 76, she sailed to Turkey to direct American relief for civilians suffering a humanitarian crisis. The next year, she worked in hospitals in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

This woman’s energy and commitment to help ease suffering set the standard the Red Cross continues to follow. During fiscal year 2020 alone, 2,800 Red Cross volunteers from Northern Ohio responded to disasters here and across the country, using new procedures to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. Regionally, the Northern Ohio Red Cross:

  • Responded to nearly 1,200 local disasters and distributed more than $1 million in aid to meet immediate disaster-related needs
  • Taught nearly 61,500 people potentially lifesaving CPR, AED, first aid, aquatics and babysitting skills
  • Collected more than 168,700 units of blood that were converted into some 506,000 life-supporting blood products for patients in more than 80 medical facilities across Northern Ohio
  • Presented community preparedness education, most of it virtually, to more than 10,500 individuals, and disaster preparedness education to 4,441 youngsters in grades 3 through 5
  • Handled nearly 5,500 urgent contacts between armed forces members and their families, and briefed some 5,400 deploying men and women, and their families, about Red Cross emergency services

“None of this would be possible without the generosity of our thousands of volunteers and donors,” said Gail Wernick, volunteer services officer for the Red Cross Northern Ohio Region. “ Hundreds of thousands of our friends and neighbors over the years are indebted to Clara for her founding example.”

1902. Blockley Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Clara Barton with graduating class of nurses at Blockley Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Miss Barton spoke to the graduating class.

So this is my birthday salute to Clara Barton. And my thanks to generations of Red Cross heroes of every age, gender, race and creed who have given selflessly of their time, their talents and their treasure to help humanity. If you’d like to follow in Clara’s footsteps in the new year, find the volunteer spot that fits you at redcross.org/volunteertoday. To financially support the work of the Red Cross, visit redcross.org/donate.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Christmas marks birth of “Angel of the Battlefield” Red Cross founder

By Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer.

Merry Christmas! Billions of people around the globe will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ today. This religious and cultural holiday is also the birth date of a significant figure in American history. Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, was born on December 25, 1821. It seems fitting that a day focused on giving marks the birth of a woman who dedicated her life to giving to those in need.

Matthew Brady Portrait of Clara BartonBorn Clarissa Harlowe Barton in Oxford Massachusetts, Clara was a shy child. She became a teacher at age 15 during a time when most teachers were men. She was also among the first women to be employed by the federal government. She moved to Washington, D.C., in the mid 1850s to work as a recording clerk in the U.S. Patent Office.

In Washington during the Civil War, Clara collected clothing, supplies and food for sick and wounded soldiers. But she felt she was needed most on the battlefields. She persuaded government and army leaders to provide her with passes to bring her volunteer services and medical supplies to battle sites and field hospitals. Her work earned her the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield.”

Clara’s pioneering vision and commitment to service continued throughout her life. She founded the American Red Cross at age 60 and served as its first president. Her spirit of giving shines on to this day through the ongoing relief work of the organization she created.

In a second consecutive year of record wildfires, hurricanes, tragic shootings and other large crises, the Red Cross’ disaster workforce—90 percent volunteers—helped millions of people across the country.

In 2018, generous support enabled the Red Cross to:

  • Serve over 8.2 million meals and snacks
  • Distribute over 2.2 million relief items
  • Provide over 290,000 overnight stays in shelters
  • Make over 188,000 health and mental health contacts
  • Provide over 73,000 households with recovery support after home firesAmerican Red Cross Historical Photo

Locally, the Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region responded to about 900 disasters, the vast majority of them home fires, assisting more than 4,200 people—about 1,600 families—and distributing about $800,000 in assistance in 2018.

To celebrate Clara’s birthday, if you would like to donate to the Red Cross and give something that means something on this momentous holiday, visit redcross.org/donate.

To read more about the life and achievements of Clara Barton, visit here.

Akron and the World Owe Thanks to Mary E. Gladwin

Looking back 100 years at the Summit, Portage & Medina Counties Chapter

(Editor’s Note:  This is the first in a series of centennial-related stories involving the founding of Red Cross chapters in Northeast Ohio)

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Have you ever asked yourself, “What will I be remembered for?”

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Mary E. Gladwin 1887 – Photo courtesy of University of Akron Archives*

I’m not sure if Mary E. Gladwin (1861-1939) ever asked herself that question, but if she had, her answer could certainly put any of us to shame.

Born in England, Mary and her family moved to Akron in 1868. At age 26, she graduated from Buchtel College (which later became Akron University) and began to teach.  Moved by her father’s stories of being saved by a nurse on a French battlefield, she longed to do more than teach. Moving to Boston in 1894, she began training as a nurse at Boston City Hospital.

During the Spanish-American war, she moved to Cuba as a Red Cross volunteer, followed closely by a stint in the Philippines. After years of service in the field, she was readmitted to Boston City Hospital’s School of Nursing, receiving her degree in 1902.

Early in 1904, Gladwin served in Hiroshima, Japan during the Russo-Japanese War, where she received multiple awards for her service. Later that year, she returned to serve as Superintendent for Beverly Hospital in Massachusetts. That was followed by a move to New York City, taking the same role at Woman’s Hospital.

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Mary Gladwin (standing 4th from right) attending to patients during the Russo-Japanese War*

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Mary Gladwin in Belgrade with two Serbian officers-Photo Courtest of University of Akron archives

In 1913, the greatest natural disaster to ever hit Ohio was the Great Dayton Flood. Gladwin answered the call and moved back to Ohio to direct the Red Cross’ nursing services.  Staying in Ohio, she moved to Cleveland later in 1913, organizing and directing the Visiting Nurses Association of Akron.  Eventually, she became president of the Ohio State Nurses Association, and director for the American Nurses Association.As World War I broke out in 1914, Gladwin went with the Red Cross to Belgrade, Serbia, caring for 9,000 soldiers in a hospital with a designed occupancy of 1,000.  Care ranged from battlefield injuries to fighting the typhus plague.

Returning in 1916, she became an incorporator and member of the first Board of Directors for the Summit County Chapter of the American Red Cross.  The chapter received its charter on June 29, 1916 and one day later, the women’s auxiliary was formed.

Heading back to Europe, she once again was on the front lines in Serbia and then Salonica, Greece, until the war ended in 1919. Returning to the US, after becoming the first recipient of the Florence Nightingale Medal, she decided her new focus would be nursing education and directed various schools of nursing until her death in Akron in 1939.

While we can all be in awe of her remarkable life of service, we can also see how perfectly her life’s work mirrored the mission of today’s Red Cross – “preventing and alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies, by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”

If you’d like to be remembered for something, become a volunteer. Learn more by logging on to the Red Cross website.

*(Note: All photos from the Mary Gladwin Papers at Archival Services at The University of Akron.