The American Red Cross
From Clara Barton to the New Deal
Written by Marian Moser Jones
Clara Barton brought the Geneva-based International Red Cross movement to the United States in 1881, despite a national climate of distrust toward European institutions. To succeed in this mission, she had to reinvent the organization as an American one: the American Red Cross would not just aid the army in wartime, as Red Cross societies in Europe did; it would also provide organized voluntary assistance in “national calamities” such as floods, fires, epidemics, accidents, and social unrest in the United States and abroad. Barton nearly singlehandedly opened a new field of humanitarian relief and breathed new meaning into the ideal of humanitarianism.
Humanitarian relief in disasters has since grown into a widespread global practice. This book is an effort to bring the spirit of Barton out of the shadows by discussing and analyzing how she and her successors developed practices and ideals of disaster relief and humanitarian assistance during the American Red Cross’s first six decades. It explores how humanity and neutrality, the two ideals that Barton and other early Red Cross leaders chose as guiding principles for their philanthropic practices, took on varied and sometimes conflicting meanings over time. By interrogating the organization’s principles, practices, and policies, this book also seeks to explode the myth that the ARC as a sacred national trust operates above all interests of class, race, and politics.
Hardcover, 375 pages.