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

So successful was she with that first school that it was the preface to sixteen years of continuous teaching, winter and summer. Her two most interesting experiences as a teacher were in North Oxford and in Bordentown, New Jersey. North Oxford was the mill village where her brother’s factories were, and where there were hundreds of children. When her popularity as the teacher in No. 9, Texas village, spread to North Oxford, she was asked to go there to start a school for operatives. This was a piece of work to her liking, and for ten years she says: “I stood with them in the crowded school-room summer and winter, without change or relaxation. I saw my little lisping boys become overseers, and my stalwart overseers become business men and themselves owners of mills. My little girls grew to be teachers and mothers of families.” Here was satisfying work for the busy brain and active body! But even that did not take up all of her time; she found long hours in which to read and study, and also acted as Stephen’s bookkeeper in the mill, during those years in North Oxford.

At the end of the ten years she broke away from the routine of teaching and became a pupil herself in Clinton Liberal Institute in New York, as there were no colleges for women at that time. The year of study refreshed her in mind and body, and, as her mother died during the year and her father decided to live with his married children, Clara was free to seek the work of the world wherever it should claim her.

From the seminary she went to Hightstown to teach, and while there rumors of her ability to cope with conditions and unruly scholars reached the village of Bordentown, ten miles away from Hightstown. Many attempts had been made to start a public school there, but without success. As a result the children of the poor ran wild in the streets, or when an attempt was made to open a school they broke up the sessions by their lawless behavior. When she heard this, Clara Barton was so greatly interested that she went to Bordentown to talk it over with the town officials, who told her that it was useless to think of making the experiment again.

Clara Barton’s eyes flashed with determination. “Give me three months, and I will teach free!” she said.

As a result of her generous offer, she was allowed to rent a tumble-down, unoccupied building, and opened her school with six pupils! Every one of the six became so enthusiastic over a teacher who was interested in each individual that their friends were eager to be her pupils, too, and parents were anxious to see what the wonderful little bright-eyed, friendly woman could do for their children. At the end of five weeks the building was too small for her scholars, and the roll-call had almost six hundred names on it. To a triumphant teacher who had volunteered her services to try an experiment, a regular salary was now offered and an assistant given her. And so Clara Barton again proved her talent for teaching.

But Bordentown was her last school. When she had been there for two years and perfected the public-school system, her voice gave out as a result of constant use, and she went to Washington for a rest. But it did not take her long to recuperate, and soon she was eagerly looking out for some new avenue of opportunity to take the place of teaching. Government work interested her, and she heard rumors of scandals in the Patent Office, where some dishonest clerks had been copying and selling the ideas of inventors who had filed patents. This roused her anger, for she felt the inventors were defrauded and undefended individuals who needed a protector. As her brother’s bookkeeper, she had developed a clear, copper-plate handwriting, which would aid her in trying to get the position she determined to try for. Through a relative in Congress she secured a position in the Patent Office, and when it was proved that she was acceptable there, although she was the first woman ever appointed independently to a clerkship in the department, she was given charge of a confidential desk, where she had the care of such papers as had not been carefully enough guarded before. Her salary of $1,400 a year was as much as was received by the men in the department, which created much jealousy, and she had many sneers and snubs and much disagreeable treatment from the other clerks; but she went serenely on her way, doing her duty and enjoying the new line of work with its chances for observation of the government and its working.