The American Red Cross

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In the Service of Those Who Suffer, Charles Bosseron Chambers, c.1918, Watertown Free Public Library

Founded in 1881, the American Red Cross offered aid to the U.S. military during the Spanish-American War and later expanded its mission to include peacetime relief work. In 1900, the Red Cross received its first congressional charter, giving the organization full legal standing. The organization introduced programs in first aid, water safety, and nursing. It assisted with disaster relief efforts, including providing aid to the survivors after the sinking of the Titanic.

With the outbreak of World War I, the Red Cross expanded rapidly. In 1914, there were 107 local chapters. By 1918, it had grown to 3,864 chapters with over 20 million adult members and 11 million Junior members. Aside from procuring funds and materials for the war effort, Red Cross nurses also offered their services to help with the influenza epidemic of 1918. 

After the war, the Red Cross continued to serve veterans and offer peacetime services such as safety training, home health care, wellness education, and disaster support.

During World War II, the Red Cross offered a range of support services. It recruited over 104,000 nurses for military service and shipped 300,000 tons of supplies overseas. The Red Cross has provided support and services during all major American conflicts, including the Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf wars.

Over the past 140 years, millions of people around the globe have been aided by the humanitarian efforts of the American Red Cross. Clara Barton’s legacy lives on in the countless volunteers and individuals who continue to support the mission of the organization.

The American Red Cross