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WedMay 21

National American Red Cross Founder’s Day – May 21, 2025

140 years ago, Clara Barton established the American Red Cross and it has been a tremendous source of aid since then — National American Red Cross Founder’s Day is observed in her honor and the history of the organization and is celebrated each year on May 21. We don’t know who founded this day, but we are all for commemorating this special event.

History of National American Red Cross Founder’s Day

The American Red Cross, also known as American National Red Cross, is a humanitarian organization that coordinates disaster relief operations across America.

Part of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the American Red Cross is the American chapter or national society of a global humanitarian aid effort. Clarissa Harlowe Barton, known as Clara, founded the American chapter of the Red Cross, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and is governed by volunteers.

Like most other women during the American Civil War, Clara Barton nursed the wounded on the battlefields, earning the nickname ‘Angel of the Battlefield’. After the war, Barton traveled to Europe, volunteering with the International Red Cross during the Franco-Prussian War from 1870 to 1871. On returning home to the U.S., she was determined that her country would participate in the global Red Cross network. She called on her influential friends and contacts — like American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman Frederick Douglass — and founded the American Red Cross. She acted as president of this organization until her retirement.

National American Red Cross Founder’s Day timeline

A Legend is Born

Clarissa Harlowe Barton is born in Massachusetts.

The American Civil War

While working at the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C., Clara Barton decides to help the military by volunteering her services.

The International Red Cross

When the Franco-Prussian War breaks out, Clara is in Europe and she volunteers to work behind German lines with the International Red Cross.

Clara Barton Returns with a New Purpose

Barton returns to the U.S., determined to bring her country into the global Red Cross fold.

The American Red Cross is Born

Clara Barton establishes the American Red Cross at the age of 51.

First Congressional Charter

The American Red Cross receives their first congressional charter and they begin carrying out responsibilities delegated to them by the federal government.


Barton retires at the age of 83 and calls Glenn Echo, Maryland home.

April 12, 1912
A Legend is Laid to Rest

Barton passes away at the age of 90 and is buried at the family cemetery in Oxford, Massachusetts.

The Civilian Blood Program

The American Red Cross institutes the first nationwide civilian blood program.

The Home Fire Campaign

Data shows around seven people lose their lives to house fires each day — the Red Cross addresses this by beginning a new campaign across America.

National American Red Cross Founder’s Day FAQs

Is the Red Cross a nonprofit?

The Red Cross is an independent entity that is organized and exists as a nonprofit, tax-exempt, charitable institution pursuant to a charter granted to them by the United States Congress.

How big is the American Red Cross?

The American Red Cross is the U.S. affiliate of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which has 13 million volunteers in 187 countries.

What does the American Red Cross do?

The American Red Cross supplies blood, aids victims of disasters in any way they can, teaches lifesaving skills, supports military personnel and their families, and provides international humanitarian aid.

How to Observe National American Red Cross Founder’s Day

  1. Learn more about the American Red Cross and its founder

    This day is a special reminder of Clara Barton's efforts, and those of every Red Cross volunteer across America. Take the opportunity to learn more about National American Red Cross Founder’s Day, the great founder herself, and the organization's history of providing relief across the U.S.

  2. Discover how the Red Cross has impacted your community

    Has your community experienced a disastrous event? Find out if the Red Cross had a hand in disaster aid and relief. To learn more about their impact over the ages, visit their website or read “A Story Of The Red Cross” by Clara Barton, “Clara Barton” by Elizabeth Brown Pryor, or “Blood, Sweat, and Tears: An Oral History of the American Red Cross” by Michele Turk.

  3. Volunteer at the Red Cross

    Red Cross volunteers perform extraordinary tasks to help the community every day, ranging from organizing blood drives to sourcing disaster aid resources from the public. Find out about the various ways you can contribute to the Red Cross on their website.

5 Interesting Facts About The American Red Cross

  1. They source 40% of the blood across America

    According to its website, the American Red Cross holds about 500 blood drives per day, collecting around 36,000 units of red blood cells.

  2. They install smoke alarms in houses

    As per their website, house fires are the most frequent disaster the Red Cross responds to, which is why they run a campaign to reduce such disasters by installing free smoke alarms and educating people about fire safety.

  3. Clara Barton was a teacher too!

    She started teaching when she was 17 and established the first free public school in New Jersey in 1852.

  4. First women to work for the federal government

    Clara Barton worked as a recording clerk at the U.S. Patent Office just before the Civil War broke out.

  5. American Red Cross has helped other countries

    They deployed more than 40 disaster responders and allocated $23.3 million when Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas, as part of a global relief effort.

Why National American Red Cross Founder’s Day is Important

  1. We learn how the American Red Cross came to be

    Who doesn’t remember the iconic images of the Red Cross nurses assisting American civilians and soldiers during the First World War? The American Red Cross has been a crucial part of our history for eons, saving lives and providing assistance when disaster struck the U.S. We honor the chance to learn more about how this organization came to be and the driving force behind the American Red Cross, Clara Barton.

  2. Get involved and help our community

    Learning about the Red Cross inspires us to get up and get involved. With various resources being offered to encourage volunteerism, the Red Cross website is an excellent place to get started. Even if you cannot volunteer at the Red Cross, might we suggest simply taking the time to think about how your skills can help someone, anyone? All it takes is the first step, and you will see how rewarding getting involved can be.

  3. We learn how the Red Cross influenced our history

    So many World War I pictures feature Red Cross volunteers working right alongside our brave military folks. Even right now, these volunteers have been deployed beside the military for humanitarian aid. When we look back at the history of America, we see how much worse off America could have been without these brave people. We welcome any chance to learn more about them and their contributions.

National American Red Cross Founder’s Day dates

2025May 21Wednesday
2026May 21Thursday
2027May 21Friday
2028May 21Sunday
2029May 21Monday

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