At CGD we think it’s important to recognise pioneering women who have led the way for women’s rights and women in business. In the 21st century it’s all too easy to take things for granted, and forget the struggle of women in the past to get their voice heard. One such woman was Clarissa ‘Clara’ Barton, who founded the American Red Cross. She worked tirelessly, at a time when women were expected to stay at home, challenging conventions and breaking rules. She received widespread criticism for stepping outside the boundaries of what was expected of a woman, but continued her work regardless, even well into her 80s. Here are some of the lessons we can learn from Clara Barton.
Challenge the rules
Clara’s early career was in education; a field where very few women worked at that time. Despite discouragement, she was a very successful teacher for twelve years and even went on to open her own school. Later in her career she was advised against forming the American Red Cross, as there was no longer a requirement for aid after the war. She did it anyway, and her efforts helped victims of natural disasters, such as the Ohio river floods. Not all rules are made to be broken, but they are certainly there to be challenged. Think outside the box, and you may come up with a solution that nobody even thought possible!
Don’t let setbacks discourage you
While working as a clerk in the US patent office, Clara came under fire from the political opposition at the time, who believed that women shouldn’t be allowed to work in a government office. She was demoted, and a year later was removed entirely. However Clara persisted and, following the election of Abraham Lincoln, she was able to regain her previous position.
Setbacks may be disheartening, but don’t let them put you off aiming for your goals.
Find your purpose in life
It was during the American Civil War that Clara first became involved in aid work, nursing soldiers on the front line, and helping to co-ordinate the delivery of supplies. Helping others became her life’s mission, and after founding the American Red Cross she travelled the globe attending war zones and natural disasters to distribute aid to those in need.
Figure out what you enjoy doing most, or what gives you a sense of purpose. If your career involves doing something you love, then you will be more motivated and focused on your goals.
Always give 100%
After the Civil War, Clara was ordered by a doctor to go to Switzerland and spend some time recuperating from the stress and exhaustion from her work. While she was there, she couldn’t help but get involved in aid work again. She was introduced to the Red Cross, and began working with them during the Franco-Prussian War. It was this experience that inspired her to start a similar organisation in America. CGD doesn’t recommend ignoring your doctor’s advice! However the more you put in then the more you will get out in the end.
With enough determination you will succeed
Despite setbacks, criticism, and political opposition, Clara Barton went on to achieve success where nobody thought it was possible. Her tireless work ethic and determination are what drove her success, and helped pave the way for career women today.