“You have never known me without work; while able, you never will.” – Clara Barton

Yesterday on day three of our ongoing Clara Barton tour we visited Barton’s home in Glen Echo, Maryland. As a brand new nursing graduate and history lover, learning about the dedication of the courageous woman who paved the way for me and millions of others is a humbling experience.

Barton’s fame as a selling point for a new town.

Clara Barton lived and worked in Glen Echo, located a little over seven miles from Washington, D.C., and overlooking the Potomac River, until her death in 1912.

Barton was an early resident of the town, which was established in 1889 by two brothers, Edwin and Edward Baltzley. The American Red Cross was an operating organization by this point and Clara’s work was well-known throughout the world. The Baltzley brothers hoped that her fame and affiliation with the American Red Cross would bring attention to their town, including from investors for its development, and they gave Clara land and a home at no cost. She moved in when she was 75 years old.

The home, built in 1891, also served as a warehouse for the American Red Cross an its disaster supplies. Coming from frugal means, Barton used the same muslin cloth used for bandages to cover some of the walls, and leftover wood from temporary Red Cross structures during disaster responses for the framing.  The house had 30 rooms, including a vault where she kept ready cash to use for any disasters, should the banks be closed.

​Clara managed the organization from the home from 1897 to 1904. She continued living in Glen Echo until her death at age 90 on April 12, 1912.

Personal Belongings and Possessions

Photo of first pamphlet published by Barton in 1875 to explain the purpose of founding an American Red Cross that would focus on responding to peacetime emergencies.

After Clara’s passing, her home went through many hands. Although many of her items were sold between 1920 and 1926, her grandniece and grandnephew were able to gather and donate items to the Library of Congress. Private citizens also made contributions of her letters to the Library of Congress along the way.

With her accumulation of medals, jewels, diaries, manuscripts, letters, and photographs, there were over 62,00 items donated to the library, which now houses the Clara Barton Manuscripts Collection (those who are interested can browse many of its holdings online).

To date the library has transcribed 41,000 pieces of Clara’s writings and associated letters. She kept diaries from age 13 to age 90!

Becoming a National Historic Site.

Barton’s home became a National Historic Site in 1974, when Congress approved the legislation, stating, “She was a remarkable person who dedicated her life and energies to help others in times of need, both home and abroad, in peacetime as well as during military emergencies . . . this structure illustrates her dedication and concern for those less fortunate than herself.”

Clara Barton, Abolition, and Voting Rights for Women and Blacks

Clara’s work became even more personal to me once I learned that she was a feminist and forward thinker with staunch views on abolition as well as a supporter of the Black community. Her friendship with Frederick Douglass began during the Civil War and Douglass was one of the founding members of the American Red Cross.

She was also a friend and long-time colleague in reform efforts with Susan B. Anthony. While Barton supported women’s suffrage, they disagreed over who should be granted voting rights first: Anthony believed women had suffered enough and deserved equal rights with men, while Clara believed that the suffering of Black men had gone on long enough and they deserved the voting rights first, with women close behind.

Despite Self-Doubt, a Lasting Effect Today

The author as a new graduate

With all her accomplishments and fame, Clara Barton still battled depression, often believing what she was doing just wasn’t enough. I personally understand that kind of self-doubt—if only she could see her legacy today and see how her vision is still alive and thriving!

Sometimes you may not see the greatness as you’re accomplishing it, and in some cases you may never see the fruits of your labor, but that does not mean work is in vain or that it cannot create radical change.

Ms. Clara Barton, I sincerely thank you for all your work, all your dedication, your undying commitment to making a change and creating the mission you believed in. Because of the work you did, I now enter into the nursing field confident and honored to continue your work.

Brittany N. Peacock-Wilson, BSN, RN CCHT, CCMA, CPhT, is a graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in Terre Haute, IN. 

The post At Clara Barton’s Home in Glen Echo, Inspiration for a New Nurse Graduate appeared first on Off the Charts.


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