Overview of the American Red Cross:
Clara Barton, born in 1821, had been a schoolteacher, a clerk in the U.S. Patent Office, and had earned the nickname "Angel of the Battlefield" during the Civil War before she founded the American Red Cross in 1881. Barton's experiences of collecting and distributing supplies to soldiers during the Civil War, as well as working as a nurse on battlefields, made her a champion for the rights of wounded soldiers.
After the Civil War, Barton aggressively lobbied for the establishment of an American version of the International Red Cross (which had been founded in Switzerland in 1863) and for the United States to sign the Geneva Convention. She succeeded with both -- the American Red Cross was founded in 1881 and the U.S. ratified the Geneva Convention in 1882. Clara Barton became the first president of the American Red Cross and led the organization for the next 23 years.
Just days after the first local chapter of the American Red Cross was established in Dansville, NY on August 22, 1881, the American Red Cross jumped into its first disaster relief operation when they responded to devastation caused by major forest fires in Michigan.
The American Red Cross continued to aid victims of fires, floods, and hurricanes over the next several years; however, their role grew during the 1889 Johnstown flood when the American Red Cross set up large shelters to temporarily house those dislocated by the disaster. Sheltering and feeding continue to this day to be the largest responsibilities of the Red Cross immediately following a disaster.
On June 6, 1900, the American Red Cross was given a congressional charter that mandated the organization to fulfill the provisions of the Geneva Convention, by rendering aid to those wounded during war, providing communication between family members and members of the U.S. military, and administering relief to those affected by disasters during peacetime. The charter also protects the Red Cross emblem (a...