This life of Clara Barton is an account both sympathetic and critical. Any rendering of her work and her personality must be so styled. She enriched the lives and the memories of so many people with her courage and kindnesses, mostly common folk at home and abroad, that she was like the music of the spheres. Barton's virtues were many, not the least of which was a tenacity of purpose. To give up the fight for the chance to succor the wounded and dying on the battlefield, or to yield to the Establishment when it came to American participation in the International Red Cross, such surrenders would have been inimical to what Clara deemed the right. Clara Barton kept a clear and steady focus on what she believed justice demanded of people and no less of nations. "In the service of humanity" is therefore the central theme of this summing up of her life, her years of fruitful endeavor. To serve others, whatever the cost to herself, comes through time after time. A character trait revealed in childhood, it became overriding.
Undoubtedly heroic and wonderfully generous in her impulse to serve, Clara Barton remained self-centered and egotistical. The older she became, the less she could brook criticism or a failure to show gratitude for the good she had done. A need for honor and praise, amounting to a craving, were what she required to carry out her good works. Barton was a strange cross of saint and sinner. To say that she was much loved but often not much liked is one way to represent this dichotomy of personality. All of which adds fascination to her life and