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Camp Joslin History

In 1921, on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, the Women's National Missionary Association of the Universalist Church purchased the home in North Oxford, Massachusetts in which Clara Barton was born. The property included a farmhouse, a barn and 96 acres of land. The home was restored as a museum and in 1925 a “fresh air” camp for inner-city youths was opened. This humanitarian endeavor was designed to honor Clara Barton, herself a Universalist.

While the Universalist Women were building the camp, Dr. Elliott P. Joslin, also born in Oxford, Mass., became one of the first physicians to use insulin to save the lives of children with diabetes. Children from across the country came to Boston to be treated by Dr. Joslin.

In 1932, Dr. Joslin and the Universalist women joined forces to create the Clara Barton Birthplace Camp, an “island of safety” for children with diabetes. The women provided property and funding, while Dr. Joslin became the first medical director, serving eight girls during this first year. The camp was revered around the world as the first “hospital in the woods” and many smaller programs were modeled after it.

In 1948, the enormous success of the “camp experiment” at the Barton homestead inspired Dr. Joslin to ask the Universalist Women to open another camp for boys on property he had purchased nearby in Charlton, Massachusetts. The Universalist Women agreed to administer both programs while Dr. Joslin and his staff provided the medical coverage. The “Barton” camp for girls and “Joslin” camp for boys became among the largest and most recognized programs of their kind in the world.

Ultimately, the financial burden of operating the boys and girls camps became too difficult, and the women's organization began divesting itself of the responsibility of the boys' camp, relinquishing control to Joslin Diabetes Center in 1976.  Joslin ran the camp successfully for many years, giving thousands of boys and young men many memories of fun times with new friends, and a better understanding of themselves and diabetes.

Meanwhile, in 1985, the Clara Barton Camp for Girls with Diabetes, Inc. was formed to administer camp programs and the museum. In subsequent years, the organization developed coed year-round programs for children and their families and friends, including day camps for boys and girls in Worcester, Boston, Long Island, and New York City. Overall, the number of annual programs has grown to more than a dozen, involving 2,000 children and their families. In 1992, the organization was renamed the Clara Barton Diabetes Center. In 1998, the organization changed its name once again, to The Barton Center for Diabetes Education, Inc.

In 2008, in a move that brought management of the girls' and boys' camps back together after 31 years apart, The Barton Center entered into an agreement with Joslin Diabetes Center to assume the management and operation of Camp Joslin.  In August 2010, The Barton Center purchased Camp Joslin whch is today part of the Barton Center.


Page last updated: September 18, 2019