THE 78-YEAR-OLD FOUNDER AND FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN RED
CROSS, WHO HAS JUST RETURNED FROM RELIEF EFFORTS IN GALVESTON, TEXAS, WILL NOT
ATTEND RED CROSS MEETINGS IN WHICH HER LEADERSHIP ABILITIES MAY BE QUESTIONED IN
ORDER TO GIVE HER FRIENDS "AN OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK FREELY"
CLARA BARTON. Typed Letter Signed: "Clara Barton",
1¾p, 8½x11, separate sheets. Glen Echo, Md., no year, but 1900
December 6. On letterhead of The American National Red Cross to Mrs.
Harriette Reed, Dorchester, Mass. In full: "Let me hasten to tell you
all I know about the proposed meetings. There are to be two within a week
or so. The little meeting for a 'cent' of the Board of Control takes place
either to-day or to-morrow. I do not attend it. Then the Annual Meeting
of which you have been notified, is to take place on the traditional 11th. I
shall not attend that either; but I shall have a request before that meeting, a
copy of which I have mailed to you to-day and all the other 79 incorporators. I
shall also have a little finishing report, or rather a third report of Galveston
and it is better and more appropriate that I be not personally at that
meeting-neither do I think Stevy [her grandnephew] will be there, as
we shall both wish to give our friends an opportunity to speak freely. I do
not know if objections will be made; but it occurs to me that when this same
body has waived my request for relief and condemned me to a life service that
they will hardly decline giving me an assistant, especially when I am willing to
take the cost myself if they are not able to, still I shall not attend the
meeting, neither do I think it at all certain that Stevy will. I know it is too
early for your winter visit and for my own enjoyment of you when you can come I
might prefer it later, as I am still a prisoner in my own castle. I have
up to this time admitted no person to my presence or scarcely to my house since
my return from Galveston. It will be yet some time before I can do so. I
do not think even by the 11th that my doors will be opened to callers. I could
by no means have carried on my work, which I must do and have admitted the
public at will, therefore I have admitted no one, and the work has been all that
Miss Coombs and I could both do. Now dear Sister Harriette, I have told you all
the facts as they are and you will use your own good judgment in regard to
being present at the Annual meeting. It will be always good to have you
there; but the convenience and pleasure of your winter visit should in no way be
made second to that. Either way that you decide will be my way, and it will be
the right way." Handwritten postscript at right margin of first page:
"Please excuse the old machine it looks awful". In the Fall of 1900,
Clara Barton, who would be 79 years of age less than three weeks after she wrote
this letter, had embarked on her last disaster effort - personally supervising
relief efforts for the survivors of the Galveston flood. A hurricane and
tidal waves that hit the island off the Texas coast on September 8 had killed
between 6,000-10,000 people and ripped 2,636 homes from their foundations.
Under the 78-year-old Barton's direct supervision over six weeks, the Red
Cross established an orphanage for the children of storm victims and helped
acquire lumber to rebuild, raising funds by selling photographs of the storm's
destruction. Earlier that year, in June 1900, the American Red Cross, founded
by Barton in 1882, had been granted a Congressional charter. Under the
charter, which protected the name and emblem of the organization, the Red
Cross was required to submit an annual financial report to Congress. Barton,
who had served as the President of the American Red Cross since its founding,
had more interest in relief efforts than in the organizational structure,
resulting in efforts to force her resignation from her "lifelong presidency".
Led by Mabel Boardman, detractors cited both Barton's advanced age and alleged
financial mismanagement. A committee was organized to investigate "all matters
and differences between the minority and majority members of this corporation"
in regard to "the method of administration and the personal character of its
business management" and a Treasury expert was hired to audit the Red Cross'
books. After the third meeting, the investigation was abruptly dropped and no
report was issued, but Barton resigned in 1904. She was succeeded by Boardman,
who assisted in revising a new charter that was granted to the Red Cross by
Congress in 1905. Lightly creased with folds, horizontal fold at the upper loops
of the "Cl" in Clara and the "B" of Barton. Nicked at blank left edge on first
page. Fine condition.
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