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Red Cross


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In 1863, Henri Dunant from Switzerland, established the International Committee of the Red Cross, an organization concerned with the alleviation of human suffering. The following year an international conference of 13 nations took place in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the care of the the sick and wounded in war. At the end of the conference the nations concluded an agreement, the Geneva Convention.

At the end of the conference the nations concluded an agreement, the Geneva Convention. The agreement provided for the neutrality of ambulance and military hospitals, the non-belligerent status of persons who aid the wounded, and sick soldiers of any nationality, the return of prisoners to their country if they are incapable of serving, and the adoption of a white flag with a red cross for use on hospitals, ambulances, and evacuation centres whose neutrality would be recognized by this symbol.

Clara Barton, a nurse in the American Civil War, led the campaign to persuade the United States to sign the Geneva Convention. In 1877 Barton organized the American National Committee, which three years later became the American Red Cross. However, it was not until 1884 that the USA signed the Geneva Convention. It was also agreed to support Barton's efforts to distribute relief during floods, earthquakes, famines, cyclones and other peacetime disasters.

On the outbreak of the First World War, some people, such as Somerset Maugham, Laurence Binyon and Christopher Nevinson, decided to work for the International Red Cross rather than British organisations.

After the First World War it was decided to further amend the convention. In 1929 a total of 47 nations agreed on rules about the treatment and rights of prisoners of war.

During the Second World War several nations failed to abide by the Geneva Convention. At the fourth convention in 1949 (21st April - 12th August) the attending nations agreed to extend and codify existing provisions for four groups of victims - the sick and wounded, shipwrecked sailors, prisoners of war and civilians in territory occupied by an army.

The golden-robed priest stood before me. "Your name?" "Florence," I answered. The priest paused and whispered to his deacon-acolyte. A book was brought and consulted, then he consulted me: "Of the Pravoslavny (Orthodox) Church?" "No," I said, "of the Church of England." Again the whispered consultation, again the book was referred to. I felt myself growing cold with fear. But he was back again and resumed the prescribed ritual, the tongue slightly twisting at the pronounciation of the foreign name.

"To thee, Florenz, child of God, servant of the Most High, is given this token of faith, of hope, of charity. With faith shalt they follow Christ the Master, with hope shalt thou look towards Christ for thy salvation, with charity shalt thou fulfil thy duties. Thou shalt tend the sick, the wounded, the needy: with words of comfort shalt thou cheer them." I held the red cross to my breast and pressed my lips to the crucifix with a heart full of gratitude to God, for he had accepted me.

One by one, we moved back to our appointed places. On our breasts the Red Cross gleamed. I looked at my Russian sisters. We exchanged happy, congratulatory smiles. As for me, I stood there with great contentment in mind and spirit. A dream had been fulfilled: I was now an official member of the great Sisterhood of the Red Cross. What the future held in store I could not say, but, please God, my work must lie among those of our suffering brothers who most needed medical aid and human sympathy - among those who were dying for their country on the battlefields of war-stricken Russia.


Red Cross (EP)

On August 29, 1979, the day after Ron Reyes joined them on drums, [8] [9] replacing Johh Stielow, McDonald brothers' middle school punk rock band, the Tourists, would change their name to "Red Cross". [2] [8] [10] [11] Soon after, on September 6, they would go into a recording studio for the first time, [10] accompanied by Joe Nolte, leader of Los Angeles rock band the Last, who produced their session at Media Art Studio in Hermosa Beach, California. [8] [10] However, when Red Cross signed not long after with Posh Boy Records, its owner, Robbie Fields, [nb 2] didn't like the Nolte recordings, so, he would get most of the songs be redone. [8] [10]

Only one of the cuts from the Nolte session would be later released. "Rich Brat" was included on the 1982 New Underground Records compilation album Life Is Ugly So Why Not Kill Yourself. [nb 3] [12] [13]

"By September [1979], Red Cross had saved up enough money to record a demo, booking some time at Media Arts for their first recording session. "I came home one night, real tired, and all I wanted to do was curl up and go to sleep," . "They said, 'We're going to the studio tonight, and we don't know what to do.' So I ended up producing the session, after drinking three cups of coffee. We had fun, and they sounded good, and I sorta liked the recordings. Their label, Posh Boy, hated them though, and made them record everything again."

In 1980, six tracks from the Posh Boy recording session were included on The Siren, [nb 4] [13] [14] [15] a sampler LP shared with San Francisco power pop band 391, and Salt Lake City punk rock act Spittin' Teeth. [14] [16] [17] Their participation in this album would be the recorded debut for Red Cross [7] so, their following release, the Red Cross EP, would be but a stand-alone reissue of those same songs. [1] [7]

All songs on Red Cross were originally recorded with producer and engineer Roger Harris at the Shelter Studios in Hollywood, California on October 1, 1979. [8] The mixing was done at Paradise Studios in Burbank, California.

Red Cross was first released in 1980 on Posh Boy Records, [2] [3] [13] in 12-inch vinyl disc format. [nb 5] The first pressing, without any cover art, came with pinkish-red labels and packaged in a generic, multicolored die-cut record sleeve. [18]

In 1981, Red Cross was included, in its entirety, on the rare cassette tape version of the Beach Blvd compilation [nb 6] [16] [19] issued by Posh Boy Records.

By 1985, Red Cross was re-released featuring its own cover art, [20] [21] and disc labels printed in black and red on a silver background. [22] This same edition would be repressed the year after.

A new repressing was released in 1987, featuring disc labels printed in black on a silver background and packaged in a generic record company sleeve as the original release. [23]

In 1987, Posh Boy repackaged The Future Looks Bright, [nb 7] [24] a sampler album originally produced by the label, jointly with SST Records, in 1981. [nb 8] Retitled as The Future Looks Brighter, [27] this edition featured only artists from the Posh Boy roster. The complete Red Cross EP was added to the CD version. [nb 9] [24] [28]

In late 1987, the EP was reissued under the title Annette's Got the Hits, [1] [29] featuring alternate cover art [30] but keeping the same catalog number [nb 5] and the old disc labels from the 1985 re-release.

In 1990, Posh Boy issued the single "Cover Band", [nb 10] [nb 11] [32] [33] bundled with "Burn Out" on its flip side.

In 1991, Annette's Got the Hits was included in the numbered 3-EP box set The Posh E.P.'s Vol. 1, [nb 12] [34] in conjunction with Stepmothers' [35] 1981 EP All Systems Go [nb 13] [36] [37] and an untitled six-track EP featuring Social Distortion's early songs recorded in 1981. [nb 14] [40]

The original cover art for Red Cross, informally referred to as "the red cover", shows the band's name on a red background, written, with its original spelling, in uppercase white letters resembling strips of medical tape. [20]

On the cover art for Annette's Got the Hits, a photomontage in sepia, portraying the four band members performing live, is displayed on a dark grey background. [30] The original spelling of the group's name is changed to "Redd Kross". [2] [4] [5] [6] [7]

After Greg Hetson left Red Cross to join the Circle Jerks in December 1979, [2] [5] [7] [8] a controversial alternate version of his song "Cover Band", [nb 15] reworked with new lyrics by Keith Morris, [43] was featured as "Live Fast Die Young" on his new band's first studio album, Group Sex, [nb 16] released in October 1980 on Frontier Records. [1] [3] [16] [44] [45]


It started out as an inefficient, scandal-ridden cult of personality

Clara Barton was a celebrity in her own time. She was a nurse during the Civil War and later gained fame by giving lectures about her experiences. Barton had been introduced to the Red Cross when she went to Europe to help out in the Franco-Prussian War. She was impressed and finally got her own version in 1881.

It was very much her organization. Barton was its first president, and H-Net says the American Red Cross was "indistinguishable" from its founder in the early years. This didn't have to be a problem, but Barton held the reins with an iron fist. She insisted on actually being present when aid was delivered, refusing to delegate even basic distribution efforts to subordinates. If Barton wasn't there, people didn't get help. It also meant they could only take on one disaster at a time, so if a flood and hurricane happened at the same time, bummer. Because of this, the Red Cross was regularly outperformed by other relief organizations.

Soon the American Red Cross was little more than a "cult of personality." It was less a national institution and more a "personal mission" of Barton's, based on her own "intimate outreach." On top of this, it was "by existing standards lackluster in its financial management and relief administration, and was frequented by scandal." Barton would be ousted in what amounted to a coup in 1904.


Solferino

The International Committee of the Red Cross was founded in 1863 by Henry Dunant and Gustave Moynier, but the idea came to Dunant four years earlier.

At that time, young Jean-Henry Dunant, a Swiss businessman, was travelling to Italy in search of Napoleon III, the French emperor. He didn’t envisage any grand humanitarian venture at the time his intentions were purely business-related, and he hoped to be able to ease access to Algeria. But along the way, he stopped at the town of Solferino, which had just witnessed a vicious battle between Austrian and Sardinian forces.

After a single day of combat, over 40,000 men had perished or been wounded many were left strewn across the battlefield. The sight was too much for Dunant. Abandoning his business venture, he started to assist the injured. Upon returning home to Switzerland, he penned A Memory of Solferino (1862), in which he wrote: “Would it not be possible, in time of peace and quiet, to form relief societies for the purpose of having care given to the wounded in wartime by zealous, devoted and thoroughly qualified volunteers?”

This idea, borne out of the suffering Dunant had witnessed in Italy, laid the first foundation stones of what would become the International Committee of the Red Cross. A momentous moment soon followed in 1864 with the adoption of the Geneva Convention, when 12 European states signed onto the Convention, agreeing to neutrality and protection for wounded soldiers in battle.

Despite Dunant’s troubles – he declared bankruptcy in 1867 – the momentum he had built could not be so easily halted. National societies based on his own in Switzerland popped up across Europe. By 1881, the idea had spread across the Atlantic to the USA with the founding of the American Red Cross.

In recognition of his efforts, Dunant was jointly awarded the very first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.

Since those days, the ICRC and the national societies have provided relief to those who have served in war and suffered from it. During WWI and WWII, prisoners of war camps were monitored, with assistance given where possible. Seven million prisoner of war, or missing person, cards were gathered during WWI and 45 million during WWII.


Founding and early years of the ICRC (1863-1914)

The Red Cross came into being at the initiative of a man named Henry Dunant, who helped wounded soldiers at the battle of Solferino in 1859 and then lobbied political leaders to take more action to protect war victims. His two main ideas were for a treaty that would oblige armies to care of all wounded soldiers and for the creation of national societies that would help the military medical services.

Dunant put down his ideas in a campaigning book, A Souvenir of Solferino, published in 1862. The Public Welfare Committee in his home town of Geneva took them up and formed a working group (the embryo ICRC, with Dunant as secretary), which first met in February 1863. The following October, an international conference was convened, to formalize the concept of national societies.

The conference also agreed on a standard emblem to identify medical personnel on the battlefield: a red cross on a white background. (The red crescent emblem was adopted by the (Turkish) Ottoman Empire in the 1870s.)

In August 1864, delegates from a dozen countries adopted the first Geneva Convention, which put a legal framework around these decisions and made it compulsory for armies to care for all wounded soldiers, whatever side they were on.

These developments put the ICRC at the origin of both the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – today grouping the ICRC, the national societies (185 in 2007) and their International Federation – and of modern international humanitarian law: the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their three Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2006.

At the outset, the ICRC's task was to encourage the creation of national societies (the first was in the German state of Württemberg, in November 1863) and to act as a channel for communication between them. Its first field operation was in 1864, during the war between Germany and Denmark: delegates were sent to work on each side of the front line. This heralded the start of the ICRC's operational role as a neutral intermediary between belligerents.

Dunant's ideas found a positive response among leaders and benefactors, welfare groups and the public. In the following years, national societies were established throughout Europe. The Geneva Convention was later adapted to include wounded, sick and shipwrecked in warfare at sea, and governments adopted other laws (such as the Hague Conventions) to protect war victims.

At the same time, the ICRC expanded its own work, undertaking new activities such as visiting prisoners of war and transmitting lists of names, so that their families could be reassured.

By the end of the 19th century, Henry Dunant – whose vision had helped start the whole process – was living in obscurity in a Swiss mountain village his business failures had forced him to withdraw from Geneva and from an active role in the Red Cross. But in 1901 he became the first recipient, along with the French pacifist, Frédéric Passy, of the Nobel peace prize.

Dunant died in 1910. By then, in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Africa, the Red Cross and the Geneva Conventions had taken root. Both were to be put to a severe test during the First World War.


Red Cross Women Paving the Way Throughout History

Voluntary service is the heart of the Red Cross, and many volunteers began their service during armed conflict. As we celebrate National Volunteer Month, we pay tribute to the Red Cross women in our history, who made significant contributions to our lifesaving mission.

1904. Library of Congress Collection. Portrait by J. E. Purdy of Clara Barton.

Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, gained first-hand experience with the Red Cross movement as a volunteer during the Franco-Prussian war. Clara helped the women of Strasbourg, France, recover economically from the Franco-Prussian War by employing them to restore donated clothing. Those pioneering efforts with the Red Cross and her success in mobilizing volunteers to respond to disasters in the U.S., led to disaster relief becoming a primary mission for the Red Cross worldwide.

“Mabel T. Boardman, who succeeded Clara Barton in 1904,

Mabel Boardman was a driven volunteer for more than 45 years, determined to redefine the organization. She became the driving force behind the newly reincorporated Red Cross, which offered various services through a network of nationally chartered chapters that were provided by volunteers and supported by staff. Nursing, first aid and water safety were among the few services Mabel initiated throughout her time.

Portrait of Jane Delano. First Lady of Red Cross Nursing.

In 1912, Jane Delano resigned from the Army Nurse Corps to become the volunteer chair of the Red Cross Nursing Service. Until her death in 1919, Miss Delano worked tirelessly creating a nationwide system of qualified nurses for the Red Cross arranging for public health education provided by Red Cross nurses in-home health care, hygiene and first aid and collaborating with the Army and Navy medical departments to train nurses and other medical personnel for wartime service.

Gwen Jackson portrait 1988. National Chairman of Volunteers.

The first African American to be appointed National Chairman of Volunteers in 1988, Gwen T. Jackson began her Red Cross service in the Service to Military Families Department of the Greater Milwaukee chapter. Gwen served as Chairman of the Board and on the Executive Committee of that chapter before being elected to two terms on the National Board of Governors.

After Clubmobile Service in England, France and Germany, Mary Louise (Weller) Chapman continued her 75-year-career leading youth services and volunteer leadership development at a Red Cross chapter in San Francisco, CA. An award called the Mary Lou Chapman Innovation Award for the Service to the Armed Forces and International Services was created in her honor.

Barbara Pathe during WWII in Europe.

Barbara Pathe, another Clubmobile veteran, was responsible for creating an access database of membership records for the American Red Cross Overseas Association (ARCOA). Barbara worked on the project for 40 years, eventually transcribing information for thousands of Red Cross staff into a membership roster. The database now serves as a vital resource for researchers. In addition, she helped developed an archival collection for the Red Cross to preserve its history, a pivotal component to the organization today.

Lois Laster, one of the few African American women to serve during World War II, she directed recreation clubs for African American service members in England and Austria and, later, the first integrated club in Korea. In addition to volunteering weekly with the Service to Armed Forces Department at National Headquarters, Lois was President of the American Red Cross Overseas Association for three years and an active member of the League of Women Voters.

A U.S. Army nurse serving with the 57 th Field Hospital in the Central European Campaign, Dorothy Steinbis Davis received the Edith Cavell Nurses Medal from the Belgian Red Cross for her care of the wounded from the Battle of the Bulge, and in 1994, she was awarded the French Legion of Honor. After World War II, Dorothy continued on as a volunteer Red Cross nurse for the next 60years and represented the Red Cross on the 50 th Anniversary of World War II Commemoration Committee.

Margaret (Maggie) Gooch Duffy served in the South Pacific with the Red Cross during and after World War II. In 1991, the Emperor presented her with the “Order of the Precious Crown Butterfly” in recognition of her work for promoting volunteerism through the rebuilding of the Japanese Red Cross Society. Following her retirement, Maggie continued as a volunteer in Nashville, Tennessee.

These nine women and many others paved the way to bring the Red Cross mission to life. We thank them and the tens of thousands of volunteers, who give their time, talent and compassion to serve others.


The Modern Era

Red Cross’s blood collection services were modernized in the subsequent years, and they continue to provide services to the public. They have also expanded, and their range of services now include HIV/AIDS education, CPR/AED training, international relief and development, assistance for armed forces and their families, and blood collection and distribution.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Red Cross has been working diligently to help people by distributing food, supporting quarantine shelters, providing physical and mental health care services, and collecting blood for those in need. To learn more about volunteering or donating blood, visit here.


The truth about the Red Cross

FOR MANY people, the American Red Cross is the very embodiment of lifesaving. Its bold red emblem is imprinted on the sides of vehicles that appear at natural disasters, storms or fires, to take care of the survivors. Millions of Americans donate blood or hard-earned pay to the organization each year, or during special appeals like after the Gulf Coast hurricanes.

But as JOE ALLEN reveals, the real story of the Red Cross isn't nearly as noble and humanitarian as the image.

IN RECENT years, the image of the Red Cross has been tarnished. The worst scandal came after the September 11 attacks, when it was revealed that a large portion of the hundreds of millions of dollars donated to the organization went not to survivors or family members of those killed, but to other Red Cross operations, in what was described by chapters across the country as a "bait-and-switch" operation.

Recently, long-simmering concerns about the Red Cross' disaster relief operations were expressed by Richard Walden, of the humanitarian group Operation USA, in the Los Angeles Times--prompting a vitriolic response by the Red Cross.

But these recent scandals are nothing new for the Red Cross. In fact, the whole history of the organization is one gigantic scandal--stretching from its racist policies toward African Americans to its corporate mentality toward human beings.

It is a tribute to the feebleness of the U.S. media--and the Red Cross' powerful Republican allies--that an institution with such a dubious history continues as the symbol of "humanitarian leadership," when it should have been replaced by a far more effective agency decades ago.

THE AMERICAN Red Cross was founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, who became famous during the Civil War for organizing the distribution of food and medical supplies to Union Army soldiers.

The Red Cross is specifically mandated, according to its Congressional charter adopted in 1905, to "carry out a system of national and international relief in time of peace, and apply that system in mitigating the suffering caused by pestilence, famine, fire, floods and other great national calamities, and to devise and carry out measures preventing those calamities." The organization was also to carry out its work in accordance with the Geneva Conventions concerning the treatment of prisoners of war. Later, the Red Cross would also be entrusted with control of a large part of the nation's blood supply.

But who got relief after disasters has always been affected by the racism that has been part of the Red Cross' long history.

For example, during the Great 1927 Flood that destroyed large parts of the Mississippi Delta and Louisiana, Black farm laborers and sharecroppers without a doubt suffered the most. As John Barry documents in his epic history of the flood, Rising Tide, delta plantation owners refused to evacuate them out of the region for fear--rightly--that most wouldn't return to their miserable, slave-like conditions.

The Red Cross came in to provide temporary housing and food aid. What African Americans of the Delta got was prison-like camps where they were routinely beaten by white, racist National Guardsmen. Food distributed by the Red Cross was given to whites first, and if anything was left, it went to Black survivors.

On the eve of the Second World War, the Red Cross stockpiled large amounts of blood because of techniques developed by the brilliant African American scientist Dr. Charles Drew. Drew himself became director of the Red Cross's Blood Bank in 1941, but resigned his position after the War Department ordered that the blood of Black and white donors be segregated.

Drew called the order "a stupid blunder," but the Red Cross complied and imposed Jim Crow in the blood supply. The Red Cross even initially refused to accept the donation of blood by African Americans at the beginning of the war effort--though it was willing to accept cash donations from them. Throughout the war, the NAACP investigated complaints by Black servicemen of racist treatment by Red Cross.

The Red Cross desegregated the blood supply after the Second World War nationally, but it allowed its Southern chapters to continue segregating blood through the 1960s.

People who think of the Red Cross as a "private charity" would be shocked to discover its actual legal status.

Congress incorporated the Red Cross to act under "government supervision." Eight of the 50 members of its board of governors are appointed by the president of the United States, who also serves as honorary chairperson. Currently, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security are members of the board of governors.

This unique, quasi-governmental status allows the Red Cross to purchase supplies from the military and use government facilities--military personnel can actually be assigned to duty with the Red Cross. Last year, the organization received $60 million in grants from federal and state governments. However, as one federal court noted, "A perception that the organization is independent and neutral is equally vital."

The leading administrators and officials of the Red Cross are almost always drawn from the corporate boardroom or the military high command. Among the past chairs and presidents of the Red Cross are seven former generals or admirals and one ex-president.

The current president Marty Evans is a retired rear admiral and a director of the investment firm Lehman Brothers Holdings. Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, the chair of the Red Cross, is also CEO of Pace Communications, whose clients include United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and AT&T--a group of companies known for their vicious treatment of workers.

The Red Cross has become particularly tied up with the Republican Party in recent decades. Both McElveen-Hunter and Evans are Bush appointees--for her part, McElveen-Hunter has donated over $130,000 to the Republican Party since 2000.

THOUGH IT is technically a nonprofit, the Red Cross is run more like profit-hungry corporation than what most people think a "charity" would act like. The most deadly example of this was the Red Cross' criminally negligent response to the early stages of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

The Red Cross has been for many decades, and remains today, the largest blood bank in the country. In 1982 and especially 1983, when it would have possible to contain the outbreak--or at least stop the spread of the disease through infusions of infected blood--major blood banks, led by the Red Cross, opposed national testing of blood for HIV.

The Red Cross' opposition was based on the financial cost. As investigative journalist Judith Reitman wrote in her book Bad Blood: "It appeared it would be cheaper to pay off infected blood recipients, should they pursue legal action, than to up the Red Cross blood supply."

Earlier this year, the Canadian Red Cross pleaded guilty to distributing contaminated blood supplies that infected thousands of Canadians with HIV and hepatitis C in the 1980s. This scandal is a large part of why the Canadian Red Cross was removed from running the country's blood supply in the late 1990s--but not the American Red Cross.

Enron-style bookkeeping, deceptive advertising and outright theft of funds have also been a big part of the Red Cross' recent history.

For years, the organization has been criticized for raising money for one disaster, and then withholding a large chunk of it for other operations and "fundraising." For example, the Red Cross raised around $50 million for the victims of the 1989 San Francisco earthquake in San Francisco, but it's estimated that only $10 million was ever turned over to the victims.

Similar charges were made against the Red Cross following fundraising operations after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and a San Diego fire in 2001. There was also a huge scandal involving the embezzlement of millions of dollars in donations in the New Jersey chapter in the late 1990s.

These scandals and the potentially embarrassing political fallout from them were muffled by the media and the Red Cross' political allies. But the truth couldn't be contained after September 11.

Soon after the attacks, Dr. Bernadine Healy, who was appointed president of the Red Cross in 1999, appealed for donations to help survivors and the families of those killed. In record-breaking time, the organization raised nearly $543 million.

Then the controversy began. A congressional investigation revealed that--though it had promised that all 9/11 donations would all go to victims' families--the Red Cross held back more than half of the $543 million. During congressional hearings, Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.)--soon to become a lobbyist for Big Pharma--declared: "What's at issue here is that a special fund was established for these families. It was specially funded for this event, September 11. And it is being closed now because we're told enough money's been raised in it, but we're also told, by the way, we're going to give two-thirds of it away to other Red Cross needs."

Healy was forced to resign, and her successors promised to allocate all of the money to September 11 survivors and their families.

THE HURRICANE Katrina catastrophe on the Gulf Coast has revealed the same old problems with the Red Cross. In late September, the organization was ordered out of a suburban Atlanta relief center because, according to the New York Times, its "application process had resulted in long lines and the group had made false promises of financial payments."

In an even more bizarre incident in Chicago, students were turned away from volunteering for a multi-agency relief center because they refused to sign a loyalty oath to the U.S. government!

Some more scrutiny of the Red Cross is beginning to take place. As Richard Walden, of Operation USA, wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "Its fundraising vastly outruns its programs because it does very little or nothing to rescue survivors, provide direct medical care or rebuild houses."

Walden noted (and the Red Cross now confirms) that the organization has raised $1 billion in pledges and gifts for hurricane relief. He also revealed that "FEMA and the affected states are reimbursing the Red Cross under pre-existing contracts for emergency shelter and other disaster services. The existence of these contracts is no secret to anyone but the American public."

How many people would donate to the Red Cross if they knew all this?

In the richest country in the history of the world, it is a travesty that such an organization is responsible for lifesaving. We deserve so much better.


Red Cross and Society ↑

A Tool for External Propaganda ↑

National societies played an important role for the victims of war, but their impact was not limited to prisoners, wounded, or civilians directly affected by the conflict. They also exerted their influence on other countries, whether they were at war or at peace.

The Red Cross was very useful for propaganda. Nationally organized humanitarian activity bolstered the reputation of a country abroad, and was often used by small neutral powers to justify their detachment from the war. Holland, militarily weak, stressed the importance of its humanitarian aid, symbolized by the Red Cross and internment, in an attempt to convince the belligerents that its sovereignty should be preserved. [38] Denmark used the same strategy. The strong relationship between the Red Cross and diplomacy was a manifestation of the strategic utility of humanitarian aid. [39] Sweden also tried to show its usefulness and to get moral and political benefits by helping victims of war. Switzerland put in place a global rhetoric where it intentionally tied its neutrality to humanitarian aid, and therefore to the Red Cross. It also frequently stressed the Red Cross’s Swiss origins and the similarity of the two flags. [40] In short, all these countries used humanitarian aid as a means of defense and promotion abroad. It proved to be a very effective argument, allowing small powers a way to power other than by military or economic might.

But this propaganda could be more aggressive and ambitious. Japan relied on its Red Cross to present itself as a civilized Asian nation. [41] (Spain and the Vatican also had this ambition, but without using the Red Cross.) The best example, however, was that of the United States, especially from 1917 onwards. Excluding enemy territories, its activities extended up to twenty-five allied or neutral countries. For example, it installed 141 stations in Italy, 329 in Great Britain, and 551 in France. [42] There, the American Red Cross spent almost 31 million dollars, added to expenses of 3.5 million dollars in Italy and 3 million in the United Kingdom. [43]

Like the other major American organizations, the Red Cross was constantly highlighting its patriotism. One of its clearly-stated goals was to strengthen the morale of the Entente and to generate sympathy for American aid: [44]

Our Army is not in France in full force yet, but the Red Cross is there, and it is the purpose of the Red Cross to see to it that both the French Army and the French people understand that the heart of the American people is behind them, and that the impulses of that heart are expressed now in works of real mercy and assistance. [45]

Similar comments were made in Italy and many other countries. The Red Cross preceded the army and, in July 1917, installed or had installed forty-three hospital bases, twenty-eight hospital units, and forty-six ambulance corps. [46]

Humanitarian aid also supported more ambitious ideological objectives. The American Red Cross tried to establish American practices in Europe. It organized exhibitions, mobilized the Junior Red Cross, and propagated the American ideal on topics such as hygiene, health, education, and child care. The ultimate goal to have a stable, democratic Europe aligned with the political and economic interests of the United States. [47] The Red Cross served a practically missionary role. While the smaller neutral powers used humanitarianism to gain acceptance of their status or to lend a cast of moral superiority to their neutrality, their rhetoric remained humble and defensive. The United States, on the other hand, used the Red Cross as a much more offensive diplomatic tool to disseminate both geopolitical and ideological ambitions.

A Tool for the Mobilization of Minds ↑

Historians such as Pierre Purseigle, John Horne, Ronand Richard, Julian Irwin, and Michaël Amara have highlighted the use of humanitarian aid as a tool for the mobilization of minds. Civilians had to display patriotism and sacrifice equal to that of the men at the front participation in charitable activities was part of this display. Of course, individuals were often concerned about the conflict because of relatives or friends who were directly suffering from it. Compassion played a very important role and inspired many personal initiatives. People probably mobilized themselves because they genuinely shared in the suffering of the victims. Thousands of private charities created at that time illustrate this spontaneous generosity and humanitarian commitment.

However, other factors could also explain this unprecedented mobilization. Governments tried to impose an ideal of the patriotic duty partly characterized by solidarity with the victims of war. Of course, there was general enthusiasm at the beginning of the war. But very quickly, humanitarian aid began to run out of steam. In France, the elites urged people to do their duty to those who were suffering. If this manifestation of patriotism was not sufficiently “spontaneous,” the authorities were prepared to use coercive methods. [48] As a result, the French Red Cross counted 1,167 committees and more than 250,000 active members. [49] The same was true in England, where commitment to humanitarian work was a way of participating in the war effort. [50] More than 90,000 volunteers joined the 3,094 Voluntary Aid Detachments raised by the British Red Cross. [51] The German Red Cross could count on the commitment of 92,094 women and 109,554 men. Including administrative staff, a total of 201,648 persons were active in the German Red Cross. [52] Their commitment was presented as a patriotic duty. [53]

The American case is extremely interesting since its entry into the war led to huge changes in the country’s humanitarian commitment. From 30,000 pre-war members, the American Red Cross grew to 300,000 volunteers after the conflict began. In July 1917, 2 million Americans joined. By 1919, the ARC counted 32 million adult members and 11 million children, roughly a third of the country’s population at that time. [54] According to Branden Little, 43 million Americans contributed more than 400 million francs to the Red Cross. [55] Among the volunteers sent to Europe were writers such as John Dos Passos (1896-1970) and Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961). In 1917, the rhetoric became more brutal: Participation in the Red Cross was not only an act of patriotism, but moreover an obligation. Slogans read like orders to the populations, shaming those who did not participate.

In Switzerland, the phenomenon was even more striking. Acting as a humanitarian hub, the country was home to the Swiss Red Cross and the ICRC, as well as hundreds of other private charities, including foreign Red Cross societies. The Italian, Serbian, British, and American Red Crosses opened offices there. The Federal Council incorporated it to the prerogative of a neutral country, while the press very often associated the work of the Red Cross with notions of duty, sacrifice, privilege, and patriotism. Therefore, external justification also made sense within the country.

The Role of Women ↑

Women played an important role in humanitarian work. Many private committees were directed by high-society women, and the Red Cross was no exception. Indeed, humanitarian activity was one of the few areas of mobilization in which women could fully participate. As they were unable to fight, assisting victims of the conflict was an excellent opportunity to show their patriotism and contribution to national defense.

The main female figure is that of the nurse. In France, on the eve of the war, it was common for elite young women to volunteer as nurses for the Red Cross. After the outbreak of hostilities, they were quickly joined by a large number of middle-class women who supported the 63,850 nurses mobilized. [56] They paid a heavy toll in the war: 105 of them were killed by bombing, 246 by disease, and 2,500 were injured. German women were also invited to contribute to the war effort by engaging in humanitarian work. [57] As in France, many of them worked in hospitals or other medical facilities, sometimes very close to the front. [58] German and Austro-Hungarian nurses even traveled to Russia to take care of prisoners of war. More than 20,000 American women followed the same movement. Dutch and Swiss nurses on the Western Front, Danish nurses, Edith Cavell (1865-1915), and Swedish women headed by Elsa Brändström on the Eastern Front all testified to the efforts of young women to temporarily emancipate themselves by helping the victims of war.

This massive and important commitment produced a whole imaginary and iconography. The image of the nurse caring for soldiers and victims of war was very common. Often, a nurse was depicted holding an injured soldier in her arms. Many images evoke the motif of the pietà, when Mary cradles the adult Jesus in her arms. The nurse was therefore cast in the role of the mother one image by the American Red Cross was appropriately titled “The greatest mother in the world.” In it, a huge woman carries a wounded soldier on a stretcher like a swaddled baby. Compared to these dramatic images, other posters were much more positive. Young, attractive nurses were entreated to do their part for their country. It sounded like an invitation to join the work of the Red Cross. These posters give a more dynamic picture of the mobilization of women.

Beyond this rich iconography, the reality was somewhat different. The First World War is important because it contributed to the professionalization of nursing. It gave thousands of women the opportunity to temporarily emancipate themselves and to engage, sometimes abroad, with the war and its horrors up close. But nursing was mainly reserved for women from the upper social strata over time, middle- or working-class women were invited to mobilize and participated in less prestigious tasks, such as making clothes. Moreover, the heroic image of the nurse did not correspond to the reality of her status. Women were expected to play a discreet role. The mobilization of women was seen as a secondary complement to men’s rather than an opportunity for accomplishment in its own right. A typical example of this mentality: The Swiss Red Cross payed the men who assisted the repatriation trains, while the women received nothing. [59]

Ultimately, women’s commitment did not translate into an improvement in their social status. National Red Cross societies are an excellent example of this failure. All managerial functions were occupied by men and closed to women. Even as significant a figure as Mabel Boardman was ousted from the leadership of the American Red Cross in 1917 with the creation of the War Council. The only real exception was Marguerite Cramer (1887-1963). A pillar of the International Prisoners of War Agency, this trained historian played an important role throughout the war, even carrying out official missions to several European governments on behalf of the ICRC. In November 1918, she was the first woman to become an official member of the International Committee of the Red Cross. While some others members of the Committee saw this as a great sign of progress, her membership had been approved only after long months of procrastination. Beyond this exception, if women played a key role in the Red Cross Movement, their commitment was not accompanied by social recognition.


The beginning of the Red Cross

Our belief in the power of kindness can be traced back to the creation of the Red Cross Movement.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement started in 1863 and was inspired by Swiss businessman Henry Dunant.

The suffering of thousands of men on both sides of the Battle of Solferino in 1859 upset Dunant. Many were left to die due to lack of care.

He proposed creating national relief societies, made up of volunteers, trained in peacetime to provide neutral and impartial help to relieve suffering in times of war.

In response to these ideas, a committee (which later became the International Committee of the Red Cross) was established in Geneva. The founding charter of the Red Cross was drawn up in 1863.

Dunant also proposed that countries adopt an international agreement, which would recognise the status of medical services and of the wounded on the battlefield. This agreement &ndash the original Geneva Convention &ndash was adopted in 1864.

The formation of the British Red Cross

When war broke out between France and Prussia in July 1870, Colonel Loyd-Lindsay (later Lord Wantage of Lockinge) wrote a letter to The Times. He called for a National Society to be formed in Britain just like in other European nations.

On 4 August 1870, a public meeting was held in London and a resolution passed:

The British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War was formed. It gave aid and relief to both warring armies during the Franco-Prussian War and in other wars and campaigns during the 19th century. This was done under the protection of the red cross emblem.

In 1905, the British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War was renamed as the British Red Cross. It was granted its first Royal Charter in 1908 by HM King Edward VII. Queen Alexandra became its president.

The Red Cross needed many skilled volunteers for its wartime role. In 1907, a permanent structure of local Branches was adopted and extended the presence of the British Red Cross to communities around the country.

The Voluntary Aid Scheme was introduced in 1909 and ensured that Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) were formed across the UK. Their members would provide aid to the territorial medical forces in times of war.



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