Warning: The following article contains spoilers for Season 1 of The Gilded Age.
The Gilded Age was a real-life era of American history in the 1800s. It also happens to be the title and inspiration for HBO's newest historical hit show The Gilded Age. The Julian Fellowes-helmed period piece follows a group of American aristocrats trying to survive in New York City society during a time of industrial innovation.
Many of the characters on The Gilded Age are inspired by real historical figures from American history. First making her appearance in Episode 3, 62-year-old American actress Linda Emond portrays Clara Barton, the real-life founder of the American Red Cross. Let's learn a bit more about Clara and the actress who plays her in The Gilded Age.
Clara Barton is the heart of the American Red Cross.
Historically, the American Red Cross was officially founded in 1881, therefore Clara and the Red Cross are already established when The Gilded Age kicks off in 1882. The series depicts Clara's profession as a nurse in the Civil War in the 1860s, which stays in line with Clara Barton's career in real life. The show also refers to her as the "Angel of the Battlefield" — a nickname Clara earned for her remarkable work serving wounded soldiers across countless battles.
Following the Civil War, she ran the Office of Missing Soldiers, fought for civil rights, and of course, founded the American Red Cross. She continued a life of service until her death at the age of 90 in 1912.
Unfortunately, in the realm of The Gilded Age, Clara's charitable efforts are embroiled in the battle between old and new money. Aurora Fane (Kelli O'Hara) and other "old money" women want to make the Red Cross their next golden charity. So, when "new money" (i.e. not born into general wealth) George Russell (Morgan Spector) spends an exorbitant amount of cash on the charity event for the Red Cross, the "old money" crowd deem his actions insulting.
The thing is, George meant to ruffle their feathers as revenge for the "old money" women snubbing his wife. Thankfully, the societal clashes between the old and new classes paid off for Clara and the Red Cross. The charity gala ended up being the most successful one yet — albeit in a way Aurora and her friends never anticipated.
Where have we seen Linda Emond before 'The Gilded Age'?
Linda is an accomplished actress of film, stage, and the silver screen. She's been nominated for three Tony Awards, and has appeared in acclaimed films such as North Country, Across the Universe, and Julie & Julia. She's had several episode arcs on a wide range of TV series, including Gossip Girl, The Good Wife, Elementary, Law & Order: SVU, The Blacklist, Madam Secretary, Succession, and The Bite. In 2022, she's set to star in the thriller series The Patient.