What Is the History of the American Red Cross?

The American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization that has been providing relief to people affected by disasters and emergencies for more than 140 years. Founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, the American Red Cross has a long and rich history of serving those in need.

The Early Years
In the late 1800s, the world was a very different place. There were no established protocols for handling medical emergencies or natural disasters.

Clara Barton, a nurse who had served on the front lines of the Civil War, saw this need and decided to take action. She founded the American Red Cross in Washington D.C., with the mission of providing relief to those affected by wars and natural disasters.

Responding to Disasters
Over the years, the American Red Cross has become known for its quick response to disasters. From hurricanes and floods to wildfires and tornadoes, the organization is often one of the first on the scene. The Red Cross provides emergency shelter, food, water, medical assistance, and other forms of aid to those affected by disasters.

The Role of Women

In addition to providing disaster relief, the American Red Cross has also played an important role in advancing women’s rights. In its early years, many women joined the organization as volunteers.

This helped them gain valuable skills and experience that they could use in other areas of their lives. The American Red Cross also provided opportunities for women to lead and manage projects – something that was not always available in other areas of society at that time.

  • The First World War
  • In 1917, when America entered World War I, the American Red Cross became heavily involved in supporting troops on both sides of the conflict.
  • The organization provided medical supplies, food, clothing and other essentials for soldiers.

The 1918 Influenza Pandemic

One of the most significant events in the history of the American Red Cross was its response to the 1918 influenza pandemic. This outbreak affected millions of people across the world and was one of the deadliest pandemics in history. The American Red Cross played a crucial role in helping to combat this disease by providing medical supplies, setting up hospitals, and training volunteers to care for those who were sick.

Recent History
In recent years, the American Red Cross has continued its mission of providing disaster relief and supporting communities in need. Its efforts have included responding to natural disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires, supporting military families, and providing blood donations for those in need.


The American Red Cross has a long and proud history of serving those in need. From its early days as a disaster relief organization to its more recent efforts supporting military families and providing blood donations, the American Red Cross continues to play an important role in our society. Its commitment to helping others is inspiring and serves as a reminder that we all have a responsibility to support our fellow human beings.