DANSVILLE — The birthplace of the American Red Cross had an old friend visit as Clara Barton told us her story on the day that honors her.
Clara Barton Day welcomed back Sheryl Faye Presents: Historical Women to the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church were on August 22,1881 one of the most important organizations in our nation’s history was born.
Before our very eyes Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross came back to life and talked about being born and raised in Oxford, Mass with all of her older siblings, school, teaching, nursing her brother back to health, rescuing the soldiers, and her love for the community that nursed her back to health.
“When I was 10 years old I had my first experience as a nurse,” Barton said. “David slipped and fell off a ladder. He seemed fine at first, but he developed a fever. The doctor was afraid David would not live.”
Barton gave her beloved brother — that she recalls getting into mischief with — a leeches treatment daily. Once she realized there was a better way she nursed her brother back to health within six months.
In those days it was hard to be a woman with big ideas and a passion for changing the world. After spending a lot of time feeling discouraged Barton was diagnosed as being quiet and shy.
She would spend many years as a teacher, and eventually form a public school for underprivileged children in the city. Once she made it possible for over 600 poor children to get an education she was immediately replaced by a man.
“I moved to Washington, D.C. and got a government job. I was the only woman, and got paid equal to the men,” Barton recalled.
It wouldn’t take long before war would break out between the north and south over the abolishment of slavery.
“A women could be a nurse if she was plain, over 30, and not at all pretty,” Barton said. “So I knew I wouldn’t be accepted.”
Barton recalled all the young men who were wounded and died on the battlefield during the Civil War.
“I had to bring supplies to the battlefield, but how many soldiers would die before I arrived,” she said. “I listened to the distant thunder of the cannons. There was a line of wounded boys over five miles long. I could not rest as long as men were dying. There were thousands of men who died in the heat of the day. Never have I ever seen such suffering. Our country, so beautiful, was in ruins.”
After giving many speeches on the war Barton was exhausted. On her trip to Europe she would discover the existence of the Red Cross. It would take her many years to get America to agree to the organization. Finally after a long stay at Our Home on the Hillside, and getting the water cure, Barton was able to bring the first chapter of the American Red Cross to Dansville.
“Ask yourself what you can do to help others in need, and make this world a better place,” Barton concluded.
Sheryl Faye answered questions after the performance about what it means to be these historic women.
“I portray these incredible women in history,” she said. “Clara loved Dansville and gave speeches here. She came back when she was ill and got the water cure. She lived here for 10 years.”
Faye is from Oxford, Mass. and has a special connection to Barton because of it.
“I play women who had a message,” she said. “Clara had a message of kindness and volunteerism. She dedicated her whole life to helping others. She was for women’s rights, fought for equal pay, and started a school.”
It was a performance of a lifetime for Faye, since she was able to perform within the footsteps of Clara Barton at the place it all started.
“It was very emotional, and I am honored to be able to literally walk in her footsteps,” she said. “I admire her.
Faye can be contacted at 1-866-936-6551 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a show. She portrays Clara Barton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Amelia Earhart, and coming soon Anne Frank. For more information visit www.sherylfaye.com