Tuesday, March 13, 2012

American Red Cross Month

Honoring the American Red Cross

I told Jan, just yesterday, how lucky she was to have a co-blogger who is in her 80s. When we write about history, I have lived through a lot of it and have personal experience in anything as far back as 1929. As usual, she just laughed and said, “Start writing, Mom.”

I just found out that March Is the American Red Cross month, so I did my usual….some research and some memories.  Most of us know that the American Red Cross was founded by Clara Barton and a group of her acquaintances. Did you know that Clara Barton became inspired to form the Red Cross when she traveled to Europe following the end of the Civil War? There she first heard of the Swiss-inspired, Red Cross Network.  Upon returning home, she campaigned for an American Red Cross Society (and for the ratification of the Geneva Convention protecting the war-injured.)

Thus, the American Red Cross came into being.

Clara Barton headed the Red Cross for 23 years. They did wonderful work during the First World War and in World War II. In 1945, the Red Cross began its service in Veteran’s Hospitals, to meet the needs of a growing number of Veteran Administration Hospitals. They provided many volunteers. One of the groups of hospital volunteers were the Gray Ladies. To understand the Gray Ladies duties, was to see them in homey relationships with the lonely patients. When a patient wanted to talk, they talked with them. They played cards, wrote letters for the disabled patients, ran errands for them and cheered up men who were homesick in a hospital far from their families.

My husband’s mother, Jan’s grandmother, was one of these Gray Ladies. Jan has her gray and white uniform and cap to remind her of this selfless woman’s giving heart.

After the war, among its many fine programs, the Red Cross introduced the first nationwide civilian blood program that now supplies 30% of the blood and blood products in this county. Later, the Red Cross expanded its role in biomedical research and entered the new field of human tissue banking and distribution.

In addition, we all know of their work when disasters strike.

I played a small part for the Red Cross during the Second World War. I was a teen-ager, and with some of my friends spent many afternoons after school “rolling” bandages for the Red
Cross war effort. I can’t remember what led me to volunteer, but I imagine it was because my older brother was, at that time, an infantry soldier in Germany fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, who later became a Purple Heart recipient. 

By Lois Jamieson

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