Setting sail from Massachusetts
“Harvard Unit Departs to Take Up Hospital Work in the War Zone” Boston Daily Globe March 8, 1915
Superintendent Edith I. Cox of the Faulkner Hospital, Boston, and formerly of Morell, P.E.I., sailed with the unit for war work in France.
Born in Morell, P.E.I., in 1883, she was the daughter of farmer, merchant, manufacturer and P.E.I. Liberal MLA for 2nd Kings Robert N. Cox and Elizabeth Sutherland. She graduated from the Massachusetts General Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1908.
The United States was not at war in 1915, but doctors at Harvard University wished to contribute to the war effort by organizing a medical unit which Edith Cox, shown in civilian dress, was the nursing administrator of the Faulkner Hospital, Boston. Formerly of Morell, P.E.I., she served with the first Harvard Medical Unit to go overseas in 1915. became known as the Harvard Unit; successive units from Harvard University sailed off to war from 1915-1919.
On March 7, 1915, cheering crowds lined Commonwealth Pier, South Boston, as the Canopic slipped its moorings; the first Harvard Unit comprising 13 doctors from Harvard University, Cox and three other nurses from Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston City Hospital was off to nurse the sick and wounded soldiers of France, England and Germany who were patients at the American Hospital in Paris.
After three months in France, Cox returned to her administrative position at the Faulkner Hospital in Boston. In 1917, she led the 70-member Boston nursing contingent to the Halifax explosion. She retired in 1948 after 27 years as administrator of the prestigious Robert Breck Brigham Hospital and was honoured with a full fellowship in the American College of Administrators.
Although Cox was in the first Harvard Unit, 13 other Island nurses served in a Harvard Unit, mainly, No .2 British General Hospital at Camiers, Département de Pas-de-Calais, France between the years 1915 and 1919. They were Viola Beers, Charlottetown; Hannah Fyfe, Stanley Bridge; Eleanor Gordon, Brudenell; Christine MacDonald, Bellevue; Georgina Durant, Margate; Martha Gates, Charlottetown; Margaret Lea, Charlottetown; Christina MacLauchlan, Stanhope; May McNevin, Charlottetown; Florence McPhee, Brae, Lot 9; Christine Matheson, Belle River; Mildred Milligan, Coleman; Estella Stewart, Lot 48.
By the end of the war, more Island nurses had served in various American units than in the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC). Two obvious reasons were that most Island nurses had trained in the “Boston States”, had gained employment there and, quite possibly, had tried, but had not been successful, in getting into the highly competitive CAMC.
Christine MacDonald of Bellevue, P.E.I., who was working in Boston in 1915, was a graduate of the New England Deaconess Hospital, Brookline, Mass., and the Boston Floating Hospital and was the longest serving Islander in the Harvard Unit. After 15 months of service in 191516, she joined the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) and served in France until 1919.