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.