How one P.E.I. woman led a group of 70 nurses in the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion

Thursday marks 101 years since the Halifax explosion took place in which more than 2,000 people died. Thousands more were injured and left homeless.

Two ships, the Norwegian steamship Imo and the munitions ship Mont-Blanc, collided on Dec. 6, 1917, igniting the Mont-Blanc's cargo and resulting in a massive explosion.

It was on Dec. 7 that a nurse from Morell, P.E.I.,  Edith Cox led a group of 70 nurses from Boston and navigated the aftermath of the tragic event.

"She was an interesting lady," said Dewar.

Submitted by Katherine Dewar

Impressive career

In her book, Those Splendid Girls, author Katherine Dewar explores the role Island nurses took in picking up the pieces after the explosion.

Before becoming a nurse, Cox was a teacher on P.E.I. for a couple of years, said Dewar.

Cox would then have an impressive career as a hospital administrator in WWI before leading the contingent of nurses after the Halifax explosion, said Dewar.

"They had to be 24 before they could become nurses so they had to do something with their life before that," she said.

Cox left the Island to become a nurse in Boston and graduated in 1909 at the Massachusetts General Hospital training school.

"It was easier to get to Boston than to Montreal or Toronto," Dewar said.

Cox rose up the ranks "very quickly," said Dewar.

This was very unusual for a woman. - Katherine Dewar

'Neat connection to P.E.I.'

During the week following the Halifax explosion Cox and her group of nurses had to work through a winter storm and were forced to give care to patients outside while facing the elements.

"It was very difficult," she said. "It's a neat connection to P.E.I."

After leading the contingent, Cox went on to work as a hospital administrator for 27 years and was honoured in 1940 with a full fellowship at the American College of Administrators.

"This was very unusual for a woman."

After a long career of helping others, Cox would finally find the time to get married at the age of 70.

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