In an era that revered heroic figures, Clara Barton was routinely cited as the great example of a humanitarian. As the New York Times put it in her obituary, her name had become "a household word, associated in the public mind with goodness and mercy."
Already active as a reformer before the Civil War, Clara Barton became involved in the conflict by serving as a volunteer nurse. On the day of the bloody Battle of Antietam she set up an aid station so close to the fighting that a Confederate bullet passed through her sleeve, killing the man she was helping.
Following the Civil War she traveled to Europe where she found herself assisting during the Franco-Prussian War. And after her return to America she founded the American Red Cross and campaigned for the United States to ratify the Geneva Convention.
At an age when most people retire, Clara Barton continued to turn up in disaster zones. She personally helped in the aftermath of the Johnstown Flood in 1889 as well as at the sites of numerous fires, earthquakes, and tornadoes.
When Clara Barton died in 1912 at the age of 91, she left as her legacy the American Red Cross, which continues to help disaster victims to this day.
Photograph: Clara Barton/Library of Congress
Connect on Facebook: AboutHistory1800s
Follow on Twitter: @History1800s