After being back East for my brother's wedding, I was on a National Park kick. There are plenty in DC that I've already been to, but I wanted to visit a place that would be new to me. The Clara Barton house was perfect because on a hot weekend we found relief indoors and it worked out that Clara Barton's life met me personally, just where I am.
The amazing bit of Clara Barton's life that I never got from the little paragraph in my elementary school history book was her lifetime of careers and changes. She's probably best known for founding the American Red Cross. But here's the inspiring chronology:
- 10 years teaching school in Massachusetts (started at age 17)
- Moved to NJ and established the first free public school there
- Moved to DC and worked as a clerk (earning the same as her male colleagues!)
- Tended wounded soldiers during the Civil War (from both sides)
- Organized logistics of getting medical supplies to front lines
- Organized the War Department's list of missing soldiers
- Joined the Civil Right speaking circuit lecturing with Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Mark Twain
- Traveled Europe for several years
- Had a nervous breakdown and recuperated for several years
- Founded and acted as President of the American Red Cross at the age of 60
- Wrote a Book
Any one of these things is an accomplishment on the level that I hope to achieve during my life. Similar to the Margaret Thatcher mantra, I think Clara Barton was the type of person to "do something" about it. She saw problems and took leadership to get it done. I was so inspired by the variance. Even having a nervous breakdown - she not only had a nervous breakdown, but she came back from it and had another 30 years of a career! It reminded me that life is a long game and seeming setbacks might just be the push of fate towards our true path.
As I prepped the picture above of my mom, grandma and me, I realized that the women in my life also represent a varied and wonderful life - from jobs they've held to lives they've touched. My mom has been a banker, teacher, mother, speaker and writer. My grandma has been a mother, Harley rider, auctioneer, pre-school attendant, handmade artisan, grandma and now great grandma.
My visit to the Clara Barton house was unexpected lesson in feminism, careers and the path to helping those in need. Hats off to Miss Clara. And hats off to the women in my life who have been modelling it as well.