Bordentown celebrates Clara Barton's 200th Birthday

BORDENTOWN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "I was born in this town, so I've always really loved the history," said Bonnie Goldman. "But the more I learned about Clara Barton, I mean, it's just unbelievable."

Goldman, one a presiding judge in the municipal courts of Burlington County, spends her days preserving and teaching history as the Co-President of the Bordentown Historical Society. Today, she could be found dressed as one of America's most celebrated female icons.

Clara Barton was born on Christmas Day in 1821. She made history in Bordentown when she opened one of the first free public schools. She became known as "The Angel of the Battlefield" as a nurse on the front lines of the Civil War. And notably, she founded the American Red Cross in 1881.

The city of Bordentown presented a proclamation to the Historical Society today recognizing the American hero. In celebration of her upcoming 200th birthday, they declared December 4th as "Clara Barton Day."

Today, families of all ages visited the Friends Meeting House for a birthday celebration. The American Red Cross served hot chocolate and promoted their mission to sign up volunteers, donate blood, and provide humanitarian aid following disasters. Attendees designed Clara-related crafts and explored an outdoor exhibit detailing Barton's accomplishments. The informational panels will continue to decorate the lawn for several months, so guests are encouraged to visit and learn more about her.

"I'm taking a health care class right now and we did a whole presentation on Clara Barton and, like, how she made a huge difference on health care," said Sonali Rodriguez, a 10th-grade student from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. "Actually, I want to be a physical therapist. I love helping people and like, it's just, like, something that really sparked my interest."

Goldman is hoping more young people become interested in the history of their city. Dressed as Barton, she spoke with many children to spread the word.

"I'm 199 years old, so somebody else is going to have to take my place soon," she joked.

More urgently, the Bordentown Historical Society needs to raise funds. Just down the road from the Friends Meeting House, Barton's historical school house sits pretty on a street corner. But it is in need of repairs and the work can't be done without the help of the community.

"Although we have gotten a grant, it's a matching grant and we have to raise a lot of money," said Goldman, "To preserve, restore, and you know, just share all the information about the rich history of Bordentown."

To learn more about the Bordentown Historical Society or the American Red Cross, visit their websites.

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