14: Clara Barton

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women in the ELCA, the 40th anniversary of women of color, and the 10th anniversary of LGBTQ+ siblings.

It’s an incredibly important marker for the ELCA, though it is only the beginning for the Church, as women are still denied ordination across the denominations and hold less than 15% of the leadership positions in the worldwide church! Therefore, in 2020, we in the Oregon Synod will highlight one woman from Christian history every week. Some you may know, others you may not, but all worthy of our respect and gratitude.

#14 Clara Barton

Clara Barton lived a remarkable life caring for the needs of others through wars and disasters, at home and abroad. Born in 1821, she was a charismatic crusader for equal rights and equal pay, a suffragist, and abolitionist who began her nursing career volunteering on the American Civil War battlefields, earning the nickname “Angel of the Battlefields.” Abraham Lincoln appointed her with the job of tracking down missing soldiers and informing their families once they were found. After a trip to Switzerland in 1869 introduced her to the work of the Red Cross, she became an advocate for and eventual founder of the American Red Cross in 1881. She advocated for an expansion of International Red Cross relief efforts, covering victims of natural disasters, called the American Amendment. She also advocated, through three American presidents, for the signing of the Geneva Treaty (now part of the Geneva Convention). She believed in equal rights and helped everyone regardless of race, gender or economic station. She brought attention to the great need of disaster victims and streamlined many first aid, emergency preparedness and emergency response procedures still used by the American Red Cross. Clara Barton saw the need for humanitarian aid and care, and she spent the rest of her life trying to meet it. The legacy of her work continues on today.