Admirable Women! Clara Barton, A Pioneering Humanitarian!

Admirable Women!  Clara Barton, A Pioneering Humanitarian!

Considering the recent devastation from hurricane Florence that has wrecked havoc in North Carolina, where many have been evacuated from their homes and are being assisted by dedicated volunteers from many national agencies, including the Red Cross, it seems fitting to share the fascinating story behind the pioneering efforts of Clara Barton, the incredible woman behind the creation of the Red Cross in America, as the next installment in the admirable women series!

Admirable Women!

Clarissa Harlow Barton, known as Clara, is one of the most honored women in American history.  She began her illustrious career as a teacher, but found her true calling as a nurse tending to the wounded soldiers during the Civil War.  Her understanding of the ways she could provide help to people in distress guided her throughout her life.  She founded the American Red Cross in 1881 at the age of 59, and led it for the next 23 years.

Red Cross symbol.

“You must never think of anything but the need and how to meet it…..then God gives the strength and things that seem impossible are done!”  Clara Barton

Little did I know that being assigned to read the biography of Clara Barton in the 5th grade in preparation for a report on the far-reaching influence of this great woman in American history would eventually lead to influencing a career choice later in my life.  I became enthralled with the notion that a woman with foresight, compassion and perseverance could buck the “system” so to speak, and make a difference in the welfare of her fellow-man at their most desperate times of need!

Clara Barton biography.

“It irritates me to be told how things have always been done.  I defy the precedent of tyranny—I simply cannot afford the luxury of a closed mind.”  Clara Barton

The Powerful Influence Of Loving Parents!

Clara Barton was born December 25, 1821 in North Oxford, Massachusetts.  She was the youngest daughter of Stephen and Sarah Barton.  Her father was a prosperous farmer and a dedicated state law-maker who had fought in the American Revolutionary War.  Barton later recalled that his heroic wartime tales made patriotism and a willingness to serve familiar to her at an early age.  Her mother was an advocate of women’s rights and taught Clara that all people should be treated equally.  Despite her extreme shyness as a child, the strong examples of her parents taught Clara that she could achieve anything she set out to accomplish!

Vintage American flag.

“The patriotic blood of my father and firm convictions of my mother run warm in my veins and uplift my soul when tasks seem insurmountable!”  Clara Barton

Due to the insistence of her parents, Clara Barton, received the finest formal education available at the time; she excelled in reading and writing, and though still timid as a teenager, she became very well spoken.  Her mother suggested she put her gifts to work and become a teacher.  At age fifteen, Clara began teaching at nearby schools; some years later, she left to teach in Bordentown, New Jersey.  Families in Bordentown were required to pay for their children’s schooling, thus many children were unable to attend.  Young Clara Barton offered to teach without salary if the students who needed to could attend for free.  The local school board was skeptical of her ability to teach what they considered to be incorrigible students, but she succeeded and was a popular headmistress of the over 600 students who eventually enrolled.  When that same school board decided to appoint a male principal to preside over her, Clara resigned!

Equal pay for women quote by Clara Barton.

“I believe I must have been born believing in the equal rights of women to all the privileges and positions which nature and justice accord her.”   Clara Barton 

Realizing Her Life’s Purpose!

After teaching, Clara Barton worked in Washington, DC in the U.S. Patent Office as the first female to work for the Federal Government.  But she always had an inclination towards nursing after tending to her brother for several years as a young girl when he suffered head trauma while building a barn.  She learned to care for him and administer his medications from their family physician.  On his death-bed, Clara’s father gave her the advice to “seek and comfort the afflicted everywhere.”  When the Civil War broke out in 1861, after seeing pictures of wounded soldiers, many of whom were her former students, Clara felt a strong desire to help.

Young Clara Barton during the Civil War.

(via Clara Barton museum)

“I may be compelled to face danger, but I never fear it, so while brave soldiers can stand and fight…I can stand and feed and nurse them!  Clara Barton

Following the First Battle at Bull Run, Clara formed an agency to distribute supplies to wounded soldiers and while she had received no formal nursing training, she relied on the skills she learned from caring for her brother and taught them to others so they could help her care for the many wounded men.  Initially, Clara and her colleagues attended to those who were hurt in ambulances set up on the periphery of the battlefields, all the while lobbying the U.S. Army to bring their nursing capabilities to the front lines.  In August of 1862 Clara was granted permission to travel and treat soldiers in some of the most dire circumstances of the war.  She served on sixteen battlefields during the Civil War, working tirelessly behind the scenes and became known as the “Angel of the Battlefield” where her own life was often at risk.  More importantly, she singlehandedly seemed to change the preconceived notion that women were too weak to help on the battlefield.

Civil War news.

(via American History archives)

“This conflict is one I am ready for…I am well and strong and young enough to go to the front.  If I can’t be a soldier, I can help the soldiers.”  Clara Barton

Founding The Red Cross!

Near the end of the war, Clara Barton found her work was not done as she began receiving letters from the families of soldiers who were looking for their missing loved ones.  President Abraham Lincoln soon appointed her to start the Office of Correspondence with Friends of Missing Men in The United Sates Army.  According to her biography, she ultimately help identify 22,000 missing soldiers.  On a trip to Geneva, Switzerland, for the purpose of relaxing after her wartime efforts, Clara was introduced to the Red Cross and the idea of national societies being formed to provide relief on a neutral, voluntary basis.  Finally, in 1864, after many bureaucratic hurdles, the American Red Cross was formed, to which Clara Barton was appointed president.  She also formed the National First Aid Association, which offered first aid kits and emergency preparedness instruction to communities across the nation so they were better trained to deal with disaster if it should come.  This program exists in most cities in America today.  Clara Barton died on April 12, 1912 at her home in Glen Echo, Maryland at age 91.  A monument in her honor stands at the Antietam National Battlefield.

Red Cross founded by Clara Barton.

(via Clara Barton biography)

“I heal the wounds of war.  I am a refuge from flood, fire and pestilence.  The love of little children is mine.  I am the Red Cross of peace.”  The Red Cross Creed

I think what impressed me most as a young girl doing a report on this iconic woman and now, as a nurse, is that Clara Barton had the ability to see a need, then face it head on, with devoted tenacity and diligence, until the need was met!

Vintage Red Cross sign.

(Vintage poster via Red Cross)

The Red Cross recently helped those displaced from their houses by fires in Utah and California, as well as those affected by hurricane Florence in North Carolina.

What I love about being a nurse is the chance to offer help to others who are vulnerable due to illness, and empowering them to become self-reliant and strong again as they receive proper medical care.  There truly is no better feeling than seeing the look of accomplishment as independence is regained, especially when it comes to their health!  I’ve had the privilege of teaching first aid and basic Cardiac Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) to youth in our community, as well as help new mother’s feel confident in caring for themselves and their newborns after delivery.  While you may not have a medical background, you can certainly be an asset to your city by taking first aid preparedness courses, having updated first aid kits in your home and vehicles and a 72 hour emergency kit for each member of your family.  Another option would be to check with local authorities and become Community Emergency Response Team (C.E.R.T.) qualified.

Helping others quote.

Anytime someone responds to an opportunity to help others in need in any capacity, they pay tribute to the life of Clara Barton and her pioneering, humanitarian spirit!

May we all strive to make a difference in someone’s life!

I’d love it if you’d share an  experience you’ve had giving or receiving help during a time of need?  

–Love, Mary

Admirable Women! The Creative Vision of Joan Ganz Cooney!

Admirable Women!  The Creative Vision Of Joan Ganz Cooney!

Many children around the world, including my own, as well as my grandchildren, have grown up being able to take advantage of the creative vision, drive and revolutionary work of Joan Ganz Cooney, the admirable woman behind the Children’s Television Workshop, whose credits include one of the best known and best loved television shows in history, Sesame Street!

Admirable Women!

“Cherishing children is the mark of a civilized world!”  Joan Ganz Cooney

An Unlikely Career Path:

Born in 1929, Joan Ganz, was raised in a conventional household in Phoenix, Arizona, and though she was initially drawn to studying theater, her family encouraged her to pursue a teaching career.  She graduated with a degree in education from the University of Arizona in 1951.  Eventually, Ms. Ganz  became interested in journalism and by 1954, she moved to New York City to work as a publicist for various TV networks.  While living in New York City, she married Timothy Cooney, and had the opportunity to become a documentary producer for public television; it was while she worked on these documentaries that she decided she wanted to use television as a means for teaching children.

Joan Ganz Cooney: Co-founder of Sesame Street.

(via Children’s Television Workshop)

Joan Ganz Cooney decided early in her career as a television producer that she wanted to make a positive influence in people’s lives by using television as an innovative teaching medium for the benefit of young children everywhere! 

After conducting a number of studies on the subject of using television programs as a way to teach children, Joan Ganz Cooney used her research to convince others of television’s potential for expanding a child’s learning arena.  Her programming format inspiration came from the way TV commercials were produced; shows were created that had a quick pace intended to hold children’s interest, featuring a variety of educational segments in each episode.  With financial assistance from the Carnegie Corporation, the U.S. Department of Education and the Ford Foundation, Cooney established the Children’s Television Workshop and Sesame Street premiered on TV’s Public Broadcasting System (PBS) in November of 1969 and has remained on the air ever since and continues to thrive in its mission to help kids “grow smarter, stronger and kinder”!

Sesmae Street with Jim Henson puppets.

(via Sesame Street) 

Along with its unique, multiracial cast of actors, Sesame Street also features characters created by the late Jim Henson, better known as the Muppets.

Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street!

FYI…..did you know that Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch were the first two characters Jim Henson created for the Sesame Street television series?

Joan Ganz Cooney was also the mastermind behind other successful children’s shows like, The Electric Company (1971-1977), 3-2-1 Contact (1980-1988), and Square One TV (1987-1992).  While she is no longer the president of the Children’s Television Workshop, she remains actively involved with the development of Sesame Street and other program planning in the organization.

Awards And Honors:

Joan Ganz Cooney has received countless, well-deserved honors for her dedication to educational television for children.  In 1989 she received an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement, and in 1995 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1998.  In 2007, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center was founded, a nonprofit organization dedicated to children’s education and literacy.

Here, in her own words, is the continued vision Ms. Cooney has for children’s educational television:

A Compelling Passion!

I’m in awe of a woman so dedicated to the education and well-being of children.  For me, she’s made possible the opportunity of watching the animated face of my youngest granddaughter when I tend her, who at a year and a half is learning while watching the adventures of her favorite characters, Abby and Zoe, on Sesame Street.  Truly, Joan Ganz Cooney is a woman to be admired and her influence will live on in the lives of so many children…and adults, for that matter…everywhere!  In May of 2014, at a Sesame Street Workshop gala, Cheryl Henson, the daughter of Jim Henson, praised Ms. Cooney for always being so passionate about her vision of a better society that could be described in one compelling phrase: Put the children first!

Joan Ganz Cooney: Sesame Street workshop co-founder.

(via Joan Ganz Cooney archives)

“It’s not whether children will learn from television, it’s what children will learn from television…because everything that children see on television is teaching them something?”  Joan Ganz Cooney  Children’s Television Workshop

Did you watch Sesame Street as a child?  If so, who were your favorite characters?  What would loved ones say your life’s passion is?  (I know…that’s deep, but interesting to think about.)


Admirable Women! The Adventurous Spirit Of Amelia Earhart!

Admirable Women!

Continuing with another journal entry in the admirable women series…I want to celebrate the adventurous spirit of Amelia Earhart.  In July of this year, History Channel’s documentary “Amelia Earhart–The Lost Evidence”  renewed interest in researching the mysterious disappearance in 1937 of Earhart and her flight navigator, Fred Noonan, when new evidence and pictures were found of the pair as she attempted to become the first pilot to fly around the world.  Regardless of how she died, Amelia Earhart will forever be a lasting symbol of the tenacity and perseverance of American women!

Admirable Women!

I imagine any young girl who has studied the adventurous life of Amelia Earhart, the first woman to make a solo transatlantic flight, in history class, envisioned herself a little more daring…and a little more determined to follow her dreams, no matter what they were–I know I did!

The Adventurous Spirit Of Amelia Earhart!

Amelia Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas on July 24, 1897.  In reading about Amelia’s early life, you soon realize that she defied traditional gender roles at a fairly young age…she played basketball, took auto mechanics courses, excelled in chemistry, and served as a Red Cross nurse’s aid during World War I in Toronto, Canada, where she spent most of her spare time watching the pilots in the Royal Flying Corps train at the local airfields.

Amelia Earhart quote.

Airplane clip art.



Ten Fun Facts About Amelia Earhart!


1. When Amelia Earhart was eleven years old, in 1908, she saw one of the Wright Brothers first airplanes at the Iowa State Fair.  She didn’t think much of the plane at the time, and told her mother she had no interest in flying.

2. On December 28, 1920, Amelia and her father visited an air show in California and Amelia went on her first plane ride that day.  She later said that she knew she had to fly as soon as the plane got a few hundred feet off the ground.

3. Another pioneering female aviator, Anita “Neta” Snook, taught Earhart how to fly at Kinner Field near Long Beach, California.  Amelia worked hard at a variety of jobs from freelance photographer to being a truck driver so she could earn enough money to take flying lessons.  According to the official Amelia Earhart biography website, Earhart immersed herself in flying and spent as much time as she could at the airfield.  Not wanting to stand out from the other more experienced pilots, Amelia cropped her hair and even slept in her new leather jacket several nights to give it a more “worn” look.

The Adventurous Spirt of Amelia Earhart!

“Flying is not all clear sailing, but the fun of it is worth the price.”  Amelia Earhart

 4. Amy Earhart, Amelia’s mother, an adventurer herself, (the first woman to ever climb Pikes Peak in Colorado) encouraged her daughter’s passion for flying and even used some inheritance money to help Amelia buy a second-hand plane six month’s after her first flying lessons.  It was bright yellow, so she nicknamed it “The Canary” and set her sights on establishing herself as a respected aviator, always displaying remarkable talent and bravery.  In 1923, she became the first woman to get a pilot’s license from the National Aeronautic Association. (NAA) 

 5. Amelia Earhart wrote several articles that were published in Cosmopolitan magazine–ie. “Shall Your Daughter Fly” and “Why Are Women Afraid To Fly” recounting her adventures as a female pilot in an attempt to encourage other women to fly, even if they just did so commercially.  (While commercial flights didn’t really take off until after WWII, they do date back to as early as 1914.)  

Strong Women quote by Amelia Earhart.

 “The most effective way to do it…is to do it! ” Amelia Earhart

 6. In 1929, Amelia Earhart organized and then became the first president of the “Ninety Nines” a group of 99 women pilots that promoted advancement in aviation for women.  The organization still exists today and provides scholarships and education for women who share the passion of flying.

 7. The publicist, George Putnam, who had published several writings by the renowned pilot, Charles Lindbergh, proposed to Amelia Earhart six times before she agreed to marry him.  Amanda Hess, of the New York Times, recently found a letter penned by Earhart prior to her marriage, where she states that she would not quit flying, and that she and George should not “…interfere with the others’ work or play.”  In 1939, after Earhart’s death, Putnam authored Amelia’s biography, entitled “Soaring Wings” as a tribute to his beloved wife.

 8. After a series of record-making flights, Amelia Earhart created flying clothes for women that were mostly comprised of loose trousers and zipper tops with big pockets.  Later, she designed a fashion line that she described as being “…clothes for the woman who lives actively!”  The clothing debuted with much anticipation and fanfare in 1933 at RH Macy & Co. in New York City.    

Amelia Earhart's clothing line.

 “Nothing is achieved by people who give up!”   Amelia Earhart

 9. Although Amelia Earhart may be best known for being the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic, she was also the first person to ever fly solo from Honolulu to Oakland, and from Los Angeles to Mexico City, and from Mexico City to Newark, New Jersey.

10. In June of 1937, Amelia Earhart embarked upon the first around-the-world flight.  On July 2, after completing nearly two-thirds of her historic flight–over 22,000 miles–Amelia and her navigator vanished without a trace, somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.

Amelia Earhart final flight.

“Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done!”  Amelia Earhart

There are many theories concerning the disappearance of Amelia Earhart on her last fateful flight; some speculate that she ran our of gas looking for her next fuel stop on the Howard Islands in the Pacific Ocean.  Others have thought she may have crashed landed on another small island and died as a cast-away.  Some have even theorized that she and her navigator were captured by the Japanese and accused by their leaders of espionage.

Whatever your beliefs, I hope that Amelia Earhart is remembered most for being a strong female figure who encouraged the empowerment of women, in the best sense of the term, who radiated kindness, strength and independence and eschewed conventional female roles and forged new ones for herself and other women who would follow in the future!  She truly was an admirable woman!


Here’s to each of us finding the courage to live out our dreams…no matter our age!

Do you have a favorite history book female role model?  How did they influence your life.  Please share!