Mabel Thorp Boardman

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Mabel Thorp Boardman
Mabel Thorp Boardman.jpg
Born (1860-10-12)October 12, 1860
Cleveland, Ohio
Died March 17, 1946(1946-03-17) (aged 85)
Washington D.C.
Nationality United States
Occupation Philanthropist
Mabel Thorp Boardman in 1916

Mabel Thorp Boardman (October 12, 1860 – March 17, 1946) was an American philanthropist involved with the American Red Cross. She led the Red Cross in the United States following its receiving congressional charter in 1905 until World War I, however she did not take up the post of chairman since she believed the organisation would lose credibility with the public.


She was born on October 12, 1860 in Cleveland, Ohio to a well-to-do family. Her father, William Jarvis Boardman (15 April 1832 – 2 August 1915), a lawyer and active in politics, was the grandson of the Senator Elijah Boardman. Her mother, Florence Sheffield, was the granddaughter of Joseph Earl Sheffield, who was a major benefactor of Yale University. She had 5 siblings, including Josephine Porter Boardman Crane. The family moved from Ohio to Washington, D.C. in 1887–1888, although they maintained connections to Ohio politics including a friendship with the Taft family.

As a socialite she devoted time to many philanthropies. During the Spanish–American War in 1898 she was active in recruiting nurses. In 1901 she was elected to the Executive Board of the American Red Cross and subsequently led the faction that ousted Clara Barton from the presidency of the organization in 1904.[1]

Barton always took personal charge during major disasters. She gave the illusion of efficiency but was unable to build up a staff she trusted, and her fundraising was lackluster. As a result she was forced out in 1904, when male professional social work experts took control and made it a model of Progressive Era scientific reform.[2] The new leader was Boardman; she consulted constantly with senior government officials, military officers, social workers, and financiers. William Howard Taft was especially influential. They imposed a new corporate ethos of "managerialism," transforming the agency away from Barton's cult of personality to an "organizational humanitarianism" ready for expansion along increasingly professional lines.[3]

In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Boardman to be the first woman member of the Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia.

From 1923 until 1944, Boardman served as the Director of the Red Cross's Volunteer Service and overseeing its considerable expansion.

She died on March 17, 1946 of a coronary thrombosis in Washington D.C.[4]


There is a Boardman bay at the Washington National Cathedral.[1]

Published work[edit]

  • Boardman, Mabel T. Under the Red Cross Flag at Home and Abroad Philadelphia: J. B.Lippincott (1915)


  1. ^ a b "Boardman Bay To Be Dedicated". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. June 13, 1958. Retrieved 2012-09-19. Miss Mabel Thorp Boardman, who took over leadership of the American Red Cross when its founder, Clara resigned in 1904 is buried in the Cathedral. ... 
  2. ^ Branden Little. Review of Jones, Marian Moser, The American Red Cross from Clara Barton to the New Deal H-SHGAPE, H-Net Reviews. August, 2013 online
  3. ^ Marian Moser Jones, The American Red Cross from Clara Barton to the New Deal (2013) pp. 117, 137
  4. ^ "Mabel T. Boardman Of Red Cross Dies". New York Times. March 18, 1946. Retrieved 2012-09-10. Longtime National Secretary Served Without Pay From Its Reorganization in 1905. Drew Up High Standards. Inspiring Leader, Administrator Was Descendant of Sheffield Scientific School Founder Many Years in Red Cross Work Honored at Her Retirement Studied Here and in Cleveland Insisted on High Standards Won Praise of Veterans Was Gracious Hostess War Work of Red Cross. Miss Mabel Thorp Boardman, whose work as an organizer and for more than forty years a leader of the American Red Cross established her as a great humanitarian, died of coronary thrombosis at 8:30 o'clock tonight in her residence, ... 

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