The New Student's Reference Work/Red-Cross Societies

Red-Cross Societies, a federation of relief societies in the different countries acting under the Geneva convention. The original aim of the societies was to ameliorate the condition of the sick and wounded in time of war. They had their origin in an agitation begun by Jean Dunant, a philanthropic citizen of Geneva, who in 1862 published an account of the suffering he had seen on the battle-field of Solferino, June 24th, 1859. He attributed much of the suffering to the lack of provision for the proper care of the sick and wounded and suggested that societies be formed in the different countries to collect supplies and train nurses etc. in times of peace to co-operate with and assist the regular surgical corps in time of war. The Society of Public Utility in Geneva took up the suggestion. In the following year an international conference was held in Geneva, at which sixteen nations were represented. A provisional program was agreed upon and in August, 1864, a more formal, diplomatic congress of representatives from the same nations was held, at which was signed what is now known as the Geneva convention. A red cross upon a white field was adopted by the congress as the exclusive badge of all societies formed in accordance with the principles of the convention. The first international conference of Red Cross societies was held in Paris in 1867. Red Cross societies were first formed in the United States in 1881, and the Geneva Convention was first ratified by the United States government in 1882. Miss Clara Barton, President of the Red Cross societies in the United States, suggested that they be prepared to render relief to the suffering in times of great calamities, as fires, floods, famine, pestilence etc. as well as in times of war, and her suggestion received the unanimous sanction of the National and International Committees. The Hague peace-conference in 1899 ratified the proposal of 1867 that the provisions of the societies be extended to naval warfare. While international conferences of the Red Cross societies have been held and the Society at Geneva serves as a Central Committee by which an international bulletin is published and through which all international communications are made, the societies are not really international. They are national and independent, each governing itself and making its own laws according to the genius of its nationality and needs. All societies throughout the world have a common badge and a common aim, and sustain mutual relations to the convention. The American society has furnished relief amounting to several millions of dollars besides inestimable personal service. The society, in its own vaults, always accessible, night and day, keeps funds sufficient for any sudden emergency.