Today, the Morgan Silver Dollar Coin remembers when the American Red Cross was formed 137 years ago.
From the American Anniversaries, Every Day in the Year, Presenting Seven Hundred and Fifty Events in United States History, from the Discovery of America to the Present Day by Philip Robert Dillon, published in 1918:
May 21 (1881) — The American Association of the Red Cross was founded and a constitution adopted at a meeting held at Washington, D. C, year 1881.
Miss Clara Barton was elected president. She was the American leader in the Red Cross movement and was unquestionably the founder of the American Association.
The idea of the Red Cross was first put in form by Henri Dunant of Switzerland, in a book entitled, “A Souvenir of Solferino,” published about the year 1860. The book described the terrible conditions of wounded men left upon the battle-field of Solferino (June 24, 1859) in the war for Italian independence against Austria.
Dunant advocated more humane and extensive appliances in aid of wounded soldiers. His book, and lectures following it, resulted in the organization of The International Committee of the Red Cross at a conference in Geneva which opened on Oct. 26, 1863 and lasted four days.
Fourteen governments were represented and several philanthropic societies.
In August of the next year — 1864 — the Committee at Geneva formulated “The International Red Cross Treaty — For the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded Soldiers in Armies at the Field.”
France was the first nation to adopt the articles of the Convention of Geneva — so the formulating body was called — on Sept. 22, 1864.
Of the other great powers, Italy adopted them on Dec. 4, 1864; Great Britain, Feb. 18, 1865; Prussia, June 22, 1865; Austria, July 21, 1866; Russia, May 22, 1867; The United States (Senate ratified), March 16, 1882; Japan, June 5, 1886.
The United States was the thirty-second nation to adopt the articles — eighteen years after France.
The official action of the United States Government was due largely to the force and enthusiasm of Clara Barton exerted to that purpose.
The supineness of American government officialdom during so many years when the Red Cross of Europe had become the great symbol of humanitarianism in that continent, is a cause for regret approaching shame in the heart of every true citizen of this nation.
The story of how the International Committee urged the United States Government to adopt the Articles of the Geneva Convention, and of how the matter was buried by Washington bureaucrats, and of how Clara Barton persisted and finally won, is told by Miss Barton herself in her book, “The Red Cross,” published in 1898.
She gives the largest degree of credit to James G. Blaine, Secretary of State in President Garfield’s cabinet, for finally bringing about the adoption of the Red Cross treaty by the United States.
Miss Clara Barton was born in a small country house — a story and a half — at Oxford, Mass., on Christmas Day, year 1821; she died at Washington, D. C, April 12, 1912, at the age of ninety years. Her father, Captain Stephen Barton, was a soldier. The family adopted the Universalist creed.
According to Eppler’s “Life of Clara Barton,” in 1824, at the age of three years, she was carried to school by her brother — probably to be admired as the school baby.
At eleven years she was the nurse of her brother David. She began her work for sick and wounded soldiers during the Civil War.
She went to the battlefields of the Franco-Prussian War (1870) where she worked with the International Red Cross.
Though far advanced in years, she went to Cuba in the Spanish-American War (1898) as the field commander of the American Red Cross.
On June 16, 1904, she resigned the presidency, having held the office continuously for twenty-three years — since the founding.
Her career profoundly affected the social life of this nation, and no woman in all American history ranks higher in the minds and hearts of the citizenry of the United States.
The Morgan Silver Dollar Coin shows with an image of Clara Barton, the one by which she wanted to be remembered.