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Clara Barton: "The Angel Of The Battlefields"
by [?]

That she was a real girl was shown when, having discovered that she had no summer hat, she decided she must have one. Walking through the rye-fields, she had an idea. With quick interest in a new accomplishment, she cut a number of green rye stalks, carried them into the house and scalded them, then laid them out in the sun to bleach, and when they were white, she cut them into even lengths, pulled them apart with her teeth, braided them in eleven strands and made the first straw bonnet she ever owned.

Somehow or other the months of vacation wore away; then the question was, what to do next? Her nature demanded constant action. She was far ahead of others of her own age in the matter of studies, and Mrs. Barton was in real bewilderment as to what to do with her youngest child. A phrenologist, who was a keen observer of child nature, was visiting the Bartons at that time, and Clara, who had the mumps and was lying on the lounge in the adjoining room, heard her mother tell their guest of her daughter’s restlessness and self-consciousness and ask his advice. Listening eagerly, she heard his reply:

“The sensitive nature will always remain,” he said. “She will never assert herself for herself; she will suffer wrong first. But for others she will be perfectly fearless. Throw responsibility upon her. Give her a school to teach.”

The very words, “give her a school to teach,” sent a shiver of fear through Clara’s frame, as she lay there listening, but at the same time she felt a thrill of pleasure at the idea of doing something so important as teaching. If her mother was so much troubled about her peculiar traits as to be obliged to talk them over with a stranger, they must be very hard to bear. She would set to work to be something quite different, and she would begin at once!

And so it happened that when Clara Barton was fifteen years old she followed in the footsteps of her brother and sisters and became a teacher. As soon as she decided to take the step, she was given District School No. 9, up in “Texas village,” and in May, 1836, “after passing the teachers’ examination with a mark of ‘excellent,’ she put down her skirts and put up her hair and walked to the little schoolhouse, to face and address her forty scholars.” That was one of the most awful moments of her life. When the rows of pupils were ranged before her, and she was supposed to open the exercises by reading from the Bible, she could not find her voice, and her hand trembled so visibly that she was afraid to turn the pages and so disclose her panic. But no one knew. With perfect outward calmness, she kept her eyes on the open book until her pulse beat less fast, then she looked straight ahead and in a steady voice asked them to each read a verse in turn. This was a new and delightful plan to her pupils, who were still more pleased when the reading was over to have the new teacher question them in a friendly way about the meaning of the verses they had just read in the “Sermon on the Mount.”

That first day proved her marked ability as a teacher, and so kindly and intimate was she with her scholars that they became more her comrades than her pupils. When the four rough boys of the school “tried her out” to see how much she could endure, to their astonishment, instead of being able to lock her out of the building as they had done with the previous teacher, she showed such pluck and physical strength that their respect was won and kept. After that, almost daily, at recess time she would join them in games such as no teacher had ever played with them before. And with her success Clara gained a new assurance and a less shy manner, although she never entirely lost her self-consciousness.