March is Red Cross Month

Each year the president of the United States proclaims March “Red Cross Month.” How did this tradition come about?

Since Clara Barton created the American Red Cross in 1881, it was largely dependent for publicity and funds on the spontaneous support of people who learned of catastrophic events and the Red Cross’s response to them. News of an event broke. The American Red Cross rushed to the scene with help. People around the country came forth with outpourings of volunteer assistance and donations of funds and supplies.

A change occurred in 1917, when the United States entered World War I. After declaring war, President Woodrow Wilson ordered the American Red Cross to raise funds to support its aid to the military and civilians affected by war, as Congress had mandated. In response, the Red Cross held its first national War Fund drive in June 1917 and set as its goal $100 million, an astoundingly large sum. The public response was immediate and overwhelming.

After the war, the Red Cross decided to make the Roll Call an annual membership and fund-raising drive. In addition, it conducted special appeals from time to time in response to major disasters.

In November 1941, with war in Europe, the Red Cross conducted a highly successful 25th Annual Roll Call. A few days later, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II. The American Red Cross responded immediately by declaring a War Fund campaign. By June 1942, it had raised more than $66 million.

In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the month of March 1943 as “Red Cross Month.” The Red Cross set a goal of $125 million, the largest amount ever requested in one campaign by any American organization. Again, the response was overwhelming. It took less than six weeks to reach the target. By June 1943, donations totaled nearly $146 million. Roosevelt called it “the greatest single crusade of mercy in all of history.”

“This success compelled the Red Cross to repeat the March drive during the remaining years of the war and to make it the occasion of its annual membership and fund-raising efforts ever since. As part of the tradition, the President customarily issues a proclamation each year declaring March as Red Cross Month.

This Red Cross Month, we are thanking our supporters and urging people in America to continue to be involved with their Red Cross. The Red Cross works tirelessly to be there with help and hope when people need it most, and we are grateful for the public support that enables us to continue our work, here at home and abroad.

Red Cross Month is a great time for people to get involved with the Red Cross by:

• Donating blood

• Signing up for a CPR, first aid or another Red Cross course

• Giving a financial gift that can really save the day when the next disaster strikes

• Getting involved as a volunteer

We’re proud of our history and appreciative of the volunteers, employees and supporters who have given time, blood or contributions to enable the Red Cross to perform its life-saving mission.

Call 1-800-RED CROSS or go to

What Have American Presidents Said About the American Red Cross?

Since President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the first Red Cross Month in 1943, every American President has had something to say about the American Red Cross and its contributions to the United States.

“I request that during that month (March) our people rededicate themselves to the splendid aims and activities of the Red Cross. I summon the men, women, and young people of our country, in every city and town and village, in every county and state throughout the land, to enlist in the army of mercy mobilized under the banner of the Red Cross and to contribute generously to the Red Cross War Fund.”

–President Franklin D. Roosevelt, first Presidential Proclamation, 1943

“In order to help meet a growing post-war need, which would be multiplied in the event of a national emergency, this agency has inaugurated a national blood program intended to ensure eventually the availability of lifesaving blood to the entire nation.”

–President Harry S Truman, 1949 Red Cross Month Proclamation

“The services of the Red Cross demonstrate our nation’s tradition of neighbor helping neighbor.”

–President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1959

“Today as the Red Cross embarks upon its second century of service, each of us has an opportunity and an obligation to become a part of this humanitarian tradition. For only through our help is this important work made possible.”

–President John F. Kennedy on the 100th anniversary of the Red Cross Movement, 1963

“On every battle field, a flag of mercy flies. Its white field bears a Red Cross-the universal symbol of human compassion. Under that flag, there are no enemies, no racial or religious animosities. There are only brothers.”

–President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1968 Proclamation

“Born of war and raised in adversity, the American Red Cross has evolved many traditions in its universal quest to ease human suffering, but none have served it so durably as its tradition of flexibility.”

–President Richard M. Nixon, 1970 Proclamation

“Through the years, the American Red Cross has maintained an outstanding record of voluntary humanitarian services, fulfilling with high dedication and skill the obligations of its congressional charter.”

–President Gerald R. Ford, accepting position of Honorary Chairman, 1974

“Traditionally, March is Red Cross Month. During this period I hope all Americans will reflect of the selflessness that has led so many of our neighbors to serve the Red Cross-and their fellow Americans- with their time, their energy, and their love. We can follow their example by supporting our local Red Cross chapter.”

–President Jimmy Carter, 1977 Proclamation

“With unfailing resourcefulness, zeal, and compassion, Red Cross volunteers have proved equal to the challenges of our time. In peace and in war, they have reflected the humanitarian instincts of the American people.”

–President Ronald Reagan, 1981 Proclamation

“[F]or millions of people in need. . .the Red Cross is a brilliant point of light-part of that vast galaxy of individuals, businesses, schools, churches, synagogues, and voluntary associations working together to solve problems. . . . For 109 years that star has shone anytime there has been a need-anywhere there is a need. And today it dazzles still. . . .providing light at the end of the tunnel, a rainbow through the clouds.”

–President George Bush, at a ceremony at national headquarters, 1990

“Its [the American Red Cross’s] commitment to caring for others enables us to restore hope in the lives of injured citizens, and its example challenges us to revitalize the covenant of American citizenship. The long-term strength of our nation depends upon our willingness to live out the ideals long embodied by the American Red Cross. To celebrate our past and to safeguard our future, I am proud to commend the countless individuals whose courage and selflessness have sustained this organization for more than a century.”

–President Bill Clinton, 1995 Proclamation

“By donating their time and energy to selflessly serve others, American Red Cross volunteers demonstrate the compassion and generosity for which Americans are known. Their service paves the way to a brighter future for our citizens and people around the world.”

–President George W. Bush, 2006 Proclamation

“The Red Cross has continued to serve those suffering from large- and small-scale disasters. The organization is best known for its work helping communities deal with major disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. These large-scale disasters represent a major part of the work of the American Red Cross. Just as important are the tens of thousands of small-scale disasters that occur every day in communities nationwide, and the volunteers who respond to them. These efforts include supporting our military and their families, collecting and distributing blood, helping the needy, delivering health and safety education, and providing aid abroad.”

–President Barack Obama, 2009 Proclamation