She also left a legacy regarding the importance of accountability, disclosure, and transparency in nonprofit organizations. Although Clara Barton achieved many goals, she resigned from the organization that she worked so hard to establish under a cloud of controversy. Poor record keeping, failure to file reports, falsification of dates, and suspicion that donated funds were used for her personal benefit created a loss of public trust. Although the Senate cleared her of any intentional wrongdoing, donations to the Red Cross temporarily suffered a decline after the investigation. This lesson was an important one for the health of organizations in the philanthropic sector.
Miss Barton's achievements were unprecedented for a woman of her, or any, time. She established a free public school, worked in the U.S. Patent Office, instigated the ratification of the Treaty of Geneva, published, lectured, lobbied, and founded and led the American Red Cross. Although she was never formally associated with feminist organizations, her attitude about what women could achieve and were capable of was expressed by the way she lived her life.
Clara Barton's leadership and management style were often criticized. Although she believed that she needed assistance and support, those working for her often left due to frustrations over her dictatorial style. She kept poor records, particularly financial records, and failed to keep her personal income separate from donations to the Red Cross. Many within the organization thought she was too old to lead it. This infuriated her and she frequently lied about her age and used makeup and dress to present the image of a younger, healthier woman.
Clara Barton spoke at the Third International Conference of the Red Cross in 1884. She discussed the peacetime work of the American Red Cross helping victims of natural disasters; her organization's mission was to fill the gap immediately after the disaster, before government was able to respond, providing victims with food, shelter, and clothing. After Barton's speech, an amendment to the treaty was made stating "Red Cross societies engage in time of peace in humanitarian work—such as taking care of the sick and rendering relief in extraordinary calamities where, as in war, prompt and organized relief is demanded." In tribute to Clara Barton, this is known as the American Amendment.
Mabel Boardman and other Red Cross members dissatisfied with Miss Barton's leadership wrote President Theodore Roosevelt expressing their concerns. The President agreed, as he was not impressed with the response of the Red Cross under her leadership in the Spanish-American War. In 1904, a Senate investigation of the American Red Cross cleared Clara Barton of any intentional wrong-doing; though there had been a great deal of internal pressure for her resignation prior to the outcome of the investigation, she waited to resign until after her name was cleared. Extremely hurt and disappointed by her departure from the Red Cross, Barton knew that keeping busy was the best way to handle her depression.
Founded by Clara Baron, the association developed and distributed the first "first aid kits," taught emergency preparedness and promoted basic first aid instruction.
Through her life's work, Clara Barton became a powerful politician, negotiator, public personality, humanitarian, and American legend. She was not perfect. Her determination, tenacity and single-mindedness often offended others. But, she was charming and persuasive, too. Though emotionally fragile, she possessed a steely determination to accomplish whatever she set out to do. She was a complex woman in a time when most women lived simple lives of caring for home, husband and children. Clara chose to be a pioneer, affecting education, health care, organizational management, and feminist opportunity. She helped countless Americans through her individual action and the work of the organizations she began.
Though many of Barton's accomplishments were ones achieved as an individual philanthropic citizen, she is best known for the establishment of one of the largest humanitarian aid organizations in the world, the American Red Cross. Clara Barton's work has influenced the nonprofit sector dramatically. Through her expansion of the Red Cross' mission in peacetime, she exemplified the importance of the alignment of organizational mission with the needs of the people it serves. She used networking to obtain supplies she needed in order to attain a mission. Fundraising and publicity for the Red Cross was achieved through her tireless travel and public speaking. With these accomplishments, Barton set an example of how to meet one's goals and how tireless commitment can build an organization.
So, in 1905, she started the National First Aid Society. Based on an unsuccessful first aid program she had initiated within the Red Cross, the National First Aid Society did succeed. The society developed the original "First Aid Kits" used in homes, schools and businesses; it also distributed information and supervised first aid classes. Clara Barton served primarily in a public role and left the finances and operations to other staff members.
In 1881, the American Red Cross was formed with Clara Barton as president. The next year, the Treaty of Geneva was ratified by the U.S. Congress. This allowed the American Red Cross to become a formal member of the international organization. Clara believed the ratification of the treaty was the most important achievement of her life's work.
She gave speeches and published a pamphlet titled "." This effort increased public awareness and support for her work. She also determined the role of the American Red Cross in peacetime to assist victims of natural disasters. By publicizing this expanded mission of the organization, Barton hoped to win political support.
Following her sister's death the following year, Clara suffered a debilitating nervous breakdown from which she was unable to recover on her own. She admitted herself to a sanitarium in Dansville, New York, in 1876. Treatment consisted of therapeutic baths, fresh air, sunshine and rest. It was after this lengthy illness, at the age of sixty, Barton began the work for which she would be most rememberedthe founding of the American Red Cross.