Clara Barton, Professional AngelUniversity of Pennsylvania Press Studies in Health, Illness, and Caregiving
Widely known today as the "Angel of the Battlefield," Clara Barton's personal life has always been shrouded in mystery. In Clara Barton, Professional Angel, Elizabeth Brown Pryor presents a biography of Barton that strips away the heroic exterior and reveals a complex and often trying woman.
Based on the papers Clara Barton carefully saved over her lifetime, this biography is the first one to draw on these recorded thoughts. Besides her own voluminous correspondence, it reflects the letters and reminiscences of lovers, a grandniece who probed her aunt's venerable facade, and doctors who treated her nervous disorders. She emerges as a vividly human figure. Continually struggling to cope with her insecure family background and a society that offered much less than she had to give, she chose achievement as the vehicle for gaining the love and recognition that frequently eluded her during her long life.
Not always altruistic, her accomplishments were nonetheless extraordinary. On the battlefields of the Civil War, in securing American participation in the International Red Cross, in promoting peacetime disaster relief, and in fighting for women's rights, Clara Barton made an unparalleled contribution to American social progress. Yet the true measure of her life must be made from this perspective: she dared to offend a society whose acceptance she treasured, and she put all of her energy into patching up the lives of those around her when her own was rent and frayed.
"There is drama aplenty. . . . Pryor writes with clarify and sympathy about Barton's foibles and problems, making even the most mundane organizational difficulties seem suspenseful."—Susan Reverby, New York Times
"Irresistible. . . . Clara Barton, compassionate angel, becomes Clara Barton, neurotic, adulterer, careerist, embittered octogenarian-an authoritarian boss unable to brook criticism or delegate authority, who demanded loyalty from all and prompted one aide to dub her 'the Queen.'"—Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer
"Destined to become an important reference work for years to come."—Abigail McCarthy, Washington Post
"Barton established and headed the American Red Cross, was superintendent of a women's reformatory, played a key role in providing medical aid and relief to Civil War battlefronts, and helped establish the New Jersey public school system. Yet her character was far from saintly. Her desire for approval and recognition was boundless, and her overachieving zeal alienated contemporaries. For this outstanding biography, Pryor uses Barton's recently discovered diaries, plus letters and other primary sources, to portray a complex, troubled heroine without delving into historical psychoanalysis. A tribute to a remarkable woman. Highly recommended."—Library Journal
"Meticulously researched and well written. . . . Pryor has done an excellent job in bringing the real Clara Barton to life.""—Civil War History
"Probing, thoughtful, fascinating, and beautifully written."—American Studies