Years to Womanhood
There is something portentous in the fact that Clara Barton was born on Christmas Day, 1821, as there is, upon reflection, something sobering about the day of her death, Good Friday, 1912. During her life of four score and ten she did the Lord's work, as she understood it, exceeding every expectation her family and friends were to have for her, and emerging as one of the heroines of nineteenth-century America. Yet her most ardent admirers never claimed her as a saint, even after her passing. Clara Barton was, rather, thoroughly human: diligent with an insatiable appetite for work and for recognition; intelligent and imaginative in a willingness to dare and to defy those who stood in her way. A woman resilient of body but subject to fits of the deepest depression Clara Barton was indefatigable, yet never really happy with herself without a challenge to face. Being happy with herself may well be the key to understanding Barton's life of service and sacrifice for the cause of mankind, just as her failures may be traced to the discontent she suffered when things went poorly.
Perhaps no woman made so distinctive a mark on the history of nineteenth-century America as Clara Barton. Unlike other women of achievement who committed themselves to the cause of abolition or educational reform or female suffrage, Barton stepped boldly into what the conventions of the day dictated were male preserves: the federal bureaucracy and the world of war. In the course of events her