Clara Barton: In the Service of Humanity

By David H. Burton | Go to book overview

7
Last Years, Last Words

The last years of Clara Barton were ones of sadness and disappointment, of that there can be no doubt and no surprise. She kept busy with things that mattered a little, or mattered not at all. A life that for so many years was sharply focused now appeared directionless. Barton treasured her reputation as she reflected on her life and work. The Story of My Childhood, published in 1907, was projected as the first in a series of short books which, when completed, would constitute an autobiography. Beyond 1907 nothing was forthcoming, however. Was Clara too old to sum up all that she had done and tried to do, too tired, too defeated? Very probably all these considerations combined to explain why someone as prolific as Barton was in correspondence and in her diary, and as satisfying as it would have been for her to tell her story, failed to leave a written testament of achievement. Clara had entered the final phase of her life. Because she realized this she had recourse to mediums, doubtless to seek assurance where she could find it, that her years had been well and wisely spent.

Barton's last words, therefore, tended to center on death as on the meaning of her life. She wrote to the Grand Duchess Louise: "They tell me I am changing worlds, and one of my last thoughts and wishes is to tell you of my unchanging love and devotion to you." 1 Coming just two months to the day before her death it was intended as a fond farewell. Earlier in her life the specter of suicide stalked her, only to

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Clara Barton: In the Service of Humanity
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Women's Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - Years to Womanhood 1
  • 2 - Battlefield Commission 25
  • 3 - Travels and Travail 65
  • 4 - A New Beginning 81
  • 5 - The Red Cross: What It Became 99
  • 6 - Road to Rejection 139
  • 7 - Last Years, Last Words 159
  • Bibliography 167
  • Index 171
  • About the Author *
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