Q:

Why did the Red Cross start?

A:

Swiss entrepreneur Jean Henri Dunant came up with the idea of an international organization to aid wounded soldiers after he witnessed the Battle of Solferino in which nearly 40,000 troops died or received wounds in a single day. Dunant wanted the organization to provide help to the wounded regardless of their nationality. On October 29, 1863, delegates in Geneva, Switzerland, adopted the ten resolutions that became the Red Cross.

While Dunant's idea became the basis for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, Clara Barton founded the American division of the organization. She became interested after visiting Europe at the end of the American Civil War and found out about the organization and the Geneva Convention. The Geneva Convention regulated the treatment of soldiers in wartime. Later, the Red Cross expanded its services to others including prisoners of war and civilians.

Barton returned home and founded the American Red Cross in 1881. She also lobbied the American government to ratify the Geneva Convention to protect those wounded during war, getting the desired results in 1882. On its official website, the American Red Cross explains that Barton also campaigned to include peacetime relief work as part of the organization's mission.


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