she is best known as the founder of the American Red Cross, Clara
Barton also made history in New Jersey. Barton,
who began her career as a teacher, opened the first free
public school in Bordentown in 1852. Her Bordentown school
eventually had more than 600 students. She left the school
when she was passed over for a job as head of
the school because she was a women. Barton went on to become
famous for her work as a nurse in the Civil War. In 1881,
she founded the American Red Cross, which she led for more
than two decades.
Lynde Dix received worldwide renown for her
pioneer work in reforming mental institutions and psychiatric
care. She was responsible for the enlargement or establishment,
through state legislation, of 32 public mental hospitals,
including the New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum at Trenton
in 1848. Dix championed humane treatment of the mentally
ill at a time when they were considered subhuman and
incarcerated in jails or almshouses. She also served
as Superintendent of Women Nurses of the Union Army during
the Civil War, the highest executive position held by
a woman in the U.S. at the time.
Rita S. Finkler, the first woman on the senior
medical staff at Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, founded
the department of endocrinology there in 1939. (Endocrinology
is the study of the glands and hormones of the body and
their related disorders.) Finkler directed the endocrinology
department until 1951.
more information on New Jersey Women’s History, please
visit the Women’s
Project of New Jersey.