Enriched by Catastrophe

Social Work and Social Conflict after the Halifax Explosion

By Michelle Hébert Boyd  

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When social workers arrived on the scene after the Halifax explosion it marked the beginning of the transition from a charity model of social welfare to a profession of trained and paid social workers. The newly arrived social workers had to practise their skills in the context of Halifax’s prevailing class structures, where, traditionally, well-off volunteers passed judgment on their poorer neighbours and great care was taken not to improve the conditions of people beyond their station in society. This work reflects on the lessons the profession of social work took from its work in rebuilding the lives of Haligonians and the lessons still to be learned from this experience.

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  • Introduction: The Development of the Social Work Profession to 1917
  • Social Conditions in Pre-Explosion Halifax
  • Early Social Welfare in Halifax
  • “The Hinges Blow off Hell”: The Explosion
  • The Relief Effort and Social Work Response
  • Pensions, Property and Oppression
  • The Successes: Child Welfare and Public Health
  • The Legacy
  • Appendix
  • Bibliography
  • Index


  • Michelle Hébert Boyd

    Michelle Hébert Boyd is a social worker and journalist who has lived and worked across Canada. For the past decade, she has worked in the the areas of community development, social policy, and social inclusion. She has written for newspapers and magazines in Canada and the U.S., and her work has aired on CBC radio. She currently works for the Canadian federal government, and is working on her first novel. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia,with her husband Andrew, and her children, Ainsley and Elliott.

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