Birth

Clara Barton was born on December 25, 1821 in North Oxford, Massachusetts.  She was the youngest of 5 children.

Ages 1-10

Family members tutored Clara from the ages of one to four. Her father, who had once been a captain in the war, taught Clara all about geography and about the battlefield. This helped her in her work later in life. Clara's mother also helped, in teaching her how to sew and to cook. Sally and Dorothy, her two sisters, taught Clara how to read. Stephen, her older brother, taught her arithmetic and David, the eldest, taught everything else; for instance, how to ride anything on four legs, how to balance, and how to take care of and nurse animals. When she turned four years old, she was enrolled at Colonel Richard Stone's school. Clara did well in her studies, although she was too shy to make friends or to play with anyone. Her shyness affected her life. Years went by, and by the time she was eight years old, Clara had not made a single friend. Her parents decided to send her to a boarding school to overcome her shyness. However, when Clara got there, she was so overwhelmed that her problem became even worse, so her parents soon withdrew her from the school.

Ages 11-20

When Clara was eleven, her favorite brother, David, fell from the roof of a barn while he was trying to fix it. He was not expected to live. Then, little Clara stepped up and offered to help. She stayed by David's side for three years. In her early adulthood, the diminutive Clara began teaching at various schools in the community, working without wages in poorer areas; instructing students whose ages in one classroom ranged from toddlers to late teens. Clara's pupils regarded her with respect and admiration, and her innate shyness seemed to dissipate before an attentive, appreciative audience. Her own interest in learning was infectious; her treatment of her students was judicious and fair, and she had a talent for being a disciplinarian without needing to use force. The toughest boys in class were won over by her athletic prowess when she participated in their noon recess activities—a strategy she used to keep them from playing too roughly with their classmates. However, as much as she cared about her students and the classrooms in which she taught, the unique challenges of each school held her interest, and once overcome, she pursued new ones elsewhere.