The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement was created in Geneva, Switzerland, in October 1863 to provide nonpartisan care to the wounded and sick in times of war. The founding of the American Red Cross in 1881 was largely due to the dedication of Clara Barton. Today, the organization's actions, guided by its dedication to humanity and a desire to promote mutual understanding, friendship, cooperation, and lasting peace amongst all peoples, follow these fundamental principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity, and universality.
The Grand Forks County Chapter of the American Red Cross originated with the "Grand Forks Red Cross Society." The Society was organized at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on July 6, 1898, in response to the need for local Red Cross groups in the wake of the Spanish-American War. The Society sent money, medical bandages, and magazines to American soldiers fighting in Cuba and the Philippines. The Society remained active until the return of the First North Dakota Infantry from the Philippines in September 1899.
The entry of the United States into the First World War necessitated the resurrection of the local chapter. In March 1917, the director of the Mountain Division of the Red Cross authorized the formation of the Grand Forks County Chapter of the American Red Cross. The first meeting of the group occurred on April 23, 1917, at City Hall. A membership committee was formed, which immediately began a systematic membership drive. By June of that year, over 2,400 members were enrolled. By the end of the war, $138,000 had been raised by over 8,500 members. Satellite branches had been established in 34 smaller towns on both sides of the state border. The Home Service Section helped over 25,000 families, while the Hospital Supply Committee gathered over five tons of clothing.
During the time between the First and Second World Wars, much of the efforts of the Grand Forks County Chapter were taken up with disaster relief. Drought victims in Western North Dakota, flood victims in Colorado, and earthquake victims in Japan were among those who received aid from Grand Forks.
By the start of World War II in 1939, only four of the original 34 local branches were still active. By 1944, even these four branches were closed. By the County Chapter had taken up Red Cross efforts throughout all of the Grand Forks County. Local Red Cross activities during World War II included the recruitment and training of nurses for the armed forces, in addition to the replacement of those local nurses who were in the service. The group also trained members of the Civil Defense Corps, raised funds for prisoner of war food parcels, shipped books, magazines, and recreational supplies to military bases and camps, and taught first aid and lifesaving classes.
The County Chapter continued its support of American soldiers during the Vietnam War. "Ditty bags" were sent to servicemen and servicewomen overseas, and the Red Cross Youth sent friendship bags to Vietnamese children. The Write Hanoi project was undertaken in 1970-71, which requested that American Prisoners of War be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention.
Historically, the Red Cross has been especially helpful to residents of Grand Forks County and surrounding areas in times of flooding. The Red Cross has provided financial help, shelter, food, and clothing to those effected by flooding, at several different times during the twentieth century. The Red Cross has also brought in volunteers from outside the area to help fight floods.
The Grand Forks County Chapter of the American Red Cross Records, 1917-1980, have been divided into six series:
Series 1: Organizational Materials
Series 2: Projects
Series 3: Disaster Relief
Series 4: Supplemental Security Income Program
Series 5: Photographs
Series 6: Miscellaneous