History of the American Red Cross

By • Published: March 25th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

When disaster strikes, the Red Cross is always there to help. Do you know how this army of do-gooders got its start?

The group that eventually became the international Committee of the Red Cross was formed in Switzerland in 1863. Its initial mission was to aid soldiers injured in battle. The group promoted the formation of national relief organizations and helped accomplish the adoption of the First Geneva Convention. The convention protects the injured in wartime and established the red cross symbol as a universal sign of medical help.

In 1881, nurse Clara Barton helped found the American Red Cross to aid soldiers and others suffering from war and disasters. She was active in the international body and a key supporter of its decision to help victims of non-war disasters.

It wasn’t until World War I, when millions donated to or joined the American Red Cross, that it became the far-reaching organization we know today.

Today, in addition to helping those suffering around the globe, the American Red Cross also manages a blood program that provides almost half of the blood and blood products used in the U.S. Some of the Red Cross’ other major efforts include CPR training, educational programs about HIV/AIDs and support for military families.

The American Red Cross operates according to a congressional charter and the president of the United States is the organization’s honorary chairman. The president declares each March to be “American Red Cross Month” and appoints governors to run the Red Cross.

In honor of American Red Cross month, consider volunteering at your local chapter, or donating money or blood. You never know how you might help someone, or when you might need a little help yourself.