Birth of the Red Cross
Story of an Idea
This film, combining colourful animation with recent images, brings to life the history of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement from Henry Dunant and the Battle of Solferino through to today. The film explains the meaning of the Geneva Conventions, the universal humanitarian principles underlying the Movement's efforts and the general activities carried out by the different components, the ICRC, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the National Societies, as they work together to help those in need. http://www.icrc.org
Beginnings of the Red Cross Movement
In the early 19th century, the international Red Cross movement began with the actions of one man, Henri Dunant, a Swiss businessman. In 1859, while traveling in northern Italy, Dunant witnessed the Battle of Solferino in which 40,000 troops were killed or wounded and left on the battlefield without help. The sight of human suffering horrified Dunant. He mobilized the citizens of the city of Solferino to bury the dead and help the wounded. On his return to Geneva, he wrote A Memory of Solferino, which was published in 1862. His concern touched many, leading in 1863 to the birth of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva, Switzerland. This first committee adopted a red cross on a white background as its emblem, the reverse of the Swiss flag.
Dunant’s ideas spread throughout Europe and became the foundation for the “minimal standard of conduct” for nations engaged in conflict. In 1864, 12 nations convened and adopted the first Geneva Convention. The body of law, under which the Geneva Conventions are based, became known as international humanitarian law (IHL).
Red Cross in the United States
While Henri Dunant worked diligently in Europe, Clara Barton, a former school teacher and government worker spread a similar humanitarian message in the United States. The Civil War was raging and Clara became famous for caring for the wounded on the battlefield. Following the Civil War, she traveled to Europe and learned about the Red Cross Movement. While in Europe, Clara worked in relief efforts for civilians during the Franco- Prussian War (1870-1871). Upon her return to the United
States, Clara joined with a group of friends and founded the American Association of the Red Cross on May 21, 1881.
Clara made a unique contribution to the worldwide Red Cross Movement when she expanded relief beyond the battlefield to include victims of natural disasters. American Red Cross volunteers shipped food and clothing to victims of the Michigan forest fires in 1881. In the following years, Clara organized relief efforts for other major disasters: the Ohio and Mississippi River floods of 1884; the Johnstown, Pennsylvania, flood of 1889; and the hurricanes and tidal waves that hit the Sea Islands of South Carolina in 1893 and Galveston, Texas in 1900.
Clara Barton did not limit her services to the United States. She incorporated many nursing principles in the organization and expanded the services of the American Red Cross to provide assistance to Russian famine victims in 1892. At the age of 76, Clara led a group of volunteers to Cuba to provide nursing care, medical supplies and food to civilians and troops during the Spanish-American War of 1898.
Based on the tireless relief efforts to suffering victims, the U.S. Congress recognized Clara’s work and granted the American Red Cross its first charter in 1900. This congressional charter recognized the American Red Cross as the official volunteer organization responsible for providing relief to disaster victims and services to members of the U.S. armed forces.
Clara Barton served the American Red Cross for 23 years as the organizations first volunteer president until 1904.
The Life of Clara Barton
Clara Barton Tribute
A tribute to Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross.