University Archives


Clara Barton Complains that She is "censured for what I do write"

In this letter to "Lillie," Barton apologizes for not responding sooner and describes life in North Oxford, Massachusetts, including that she has "become quite expert in the use of fire arms" and has a new puppy who jealously protects her house.

She mentions "Sister Julia," the wife of her brother David Barton, and others in the community. The recipient may be Lydia P. Haskell, who taught with Barton in New Jersey, or another unidentified individual.

CLARA BARTON, Autograph Letter Signed, to "Lillie" [Lydia P. Haskell?], July 30, 1858, North Oxford, Massachusetts. 4 pp., 4.875ʺ x 9ʺ. Expected folds; very good.

Complete Transcript:
North Oxford July 30th 1858
Friday night ¼9 oclock
My Dear Lillie
You have in no manner offended me, and the fault is all mine that I have not written No I will not quite own all that, but it surely is not yours In reality it is the fault of the people who will persist in being unkind and hard until they drive one to the conclusion that there is nothing else in this world and the less one has to do with or say to it the better all around. I am so apt in these days to get censured for what I do write that I had come to the solemn determination not to write anymore, and I have adhered to it sacredly for months except in a few cases of business or actual necessity. I read your letters not in due time for in both instances I was in Worcester and they had to be sent to me and I did not receive the first until I supposed you had returned to Washington and the second has only reached me a day or so previous to your last, it was sent and resent until I wonder it was not worn out I am now more than sorry that you have been so unhappy. can I help you? I knew nothing of the nature of the enemy you had to deal with as I suppose it was no acquaintance of mine. I am sorry indeed. I sha’nt send you an such 'Scripter' as you point out for I don’t think you deserve it. I am glad Mr Campbell visited you, I know you were glad to see him. I am sorry for Mrs Ferguson’s ill health hope she may have recovered before this
My Brother returned last evening he is not well but feels better today than he did yesterday. My Fathers health is good, better than usual this summer. I had never heard that brother called on you but of course Mrs. Gasnall would not be very communicative
My health has been good this summer and I am much stronger than when you saw me, not heavier, but stronger. I have been practicing and can do a great deal of work in twelve hours. I am glad you enjoyed an abundance of cherries. I too have been favored, but they were not our own, our trees are too young yet to produce abundantly. We had some specimens very fine; but our cousin Judge Barton’s cherries grew like apples by the bushels, and I have well nigh lived on them.
Success to the Morning Glories for blooming brightest by your door, may they ever continue to do so. I have helped to cultivate some pretty flowers this year, and what is singular the spring roses have not done blooming yet, we have red damask and early blush roses in bud and bloom today. they are roots which I set out this spring. I have not rode on horseback this summer for want of a first rate saddle horse, they are scarce here, but by way of amends I take a short car ride every day or rather two rides, and I have (they say) become quite expert in the use of fire arms, and I have got a beauty puppy, at least he doesnt know but he is mine, he belongs to the house and especially guards one and all which belongs to me, and is so fastidious in his notions that he will not allow a stranger to come to the door and shake hands with me in the evening but takes the strange arm in his mouth directly.
Sister Julia sends her love to you and wishes me to tell you that she should be very happy to see you here at any time you could make it convenient and most certainly I should when you will again please tell us if we may expect you when I write Mr W. I will do your errand although he knows to do just so without setting Prairies: going Oh no, no, too busy, cant think of it Please remember me kindly to Mr & Mrs Ferguson, and M Ramsey if proper I leave that to your own good judgment, you will act rightly. Your aff Sister Clara

[Postscript:] When I am silent don’t think for a moment that it is you that I feel silent towards but all the world, and have come to the conclusion that "it is of no use" Let us see & hear from you

Clara Barton (1821-1912) was born in Massachusetts and received a good education though she was painfully shy. Her parents persuaded her to become a schoolteacher and she received her teacher’s certificate in 1839. After working as a teacher for a dozen years, she attended the Clinton Liberal Institute in New York to continue her education. In 1852, she successfully opened a free school in Bordentown, the first free school in New Jersey. Demoted after the town built a new school building and hired a male principal, Barton quit. In 1854, she moved to Washington, D.C., and began work as a clerk in the Patent Office, the first woman to receive a substantial clerkship and equal pay with a man. After three years, the administration of James Buchanan fired her because of her "Black Republican" political views. After living with friends in Massachusetts for three years, she returned to Washington and took a position as temporary copyist in the Patent Office. After the Baltimore Riot of April 1861 against Massachusetts troops, Barton nursed forty of the victims back to health and learned valuable lessons about aiding soldiers. She began collecting medical supplies and distributing them to soldiers. In August 1862, she received permission from Quartermaster Daniel Rucker to work on the front lines. Throughout the war, she distributed medicine and food to wounded soldiers in close proximity to the battles of Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. In 1864, General Benjamin Butler placed her in charge of hospitals at the front of the Army of the James. For her Civil War service, Barton became known as the "Angel of the Battlefield" and the "Florence Nightingale of America." After the war, she ran the Office of Missing Soldiers in Washington, helping to locate the remains of more than 22,000 missing soldiers. She also lectured about her experiences and became associated with the women’s suffrage movement and the civil rights movement for African Americans. In 1869, she became acquainted with the Red Cross in Switzerland and aided military hospitals during the Franco-Prussian War. In 1881, she founded the American Red Cross and became its first president. She continued to work in the field in response to natural disasters and wars as late as 1900.

Lydia "Lill" P. Haskell (1822-1892) was born in Maine. After teaching in the grammar school in Augusta, Maine, she later worked as a teacher in New Jersey, where she met Clara Barton, and they became lifelong friends. Haskell worked as a clerk in the Patent Office in Washington, D.C. into the 1880s.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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