During her first teaching job in Hightstown, Barton realized the great need for free public schools in New Jersey. She traveled to Bordentown to secure permission from officials to build a school/ Her endeavors were so successful that her school attendance grew to 600 students by the end of the first year. The town soon voted to build a new brick school that would better accommodate the growing number of interested school children. When the building opened in 1853, a male educator was immediately hired as the school principal and paid more than twice Barton’s salary. Consequently, a disheartened Barton moved to Washington, D.C. where she trained as a nurse. She later joined relief efforts during the Franco-Prussian War.
As a lifelong admirer of the Swiss-inspired global Red Cross, Barton decided to introduce the organization to the United States once she returned from the war. In 1881, a 60-year-old Barton became the first president of the American Red Cross. In this role, she directed all activities, managed funds, and took over most of the field relief work. Barton received over 25 decorations of honor for her service both at home and abroad. The Clara Barton School in Bordentown was restored in 1923.