About Marie Louise Hidell
In the fall of 1918, at the height of the Great Influenza Pandemic, no other city in America was hit harder than Philadelphia. During a four week period, over 12,000 city residents died of the disease. One of its victims was 39 year-old Southwest Philadelphia resident Marie Louise Hidell, an American Red Cross Nurse assigned to the Philadelphia Naval Hospital.
Marie Hidell, born in Rome, GA in 1879, graduated from the Reading Hospital School of Nursing in Berks County, Class of 1902. After serving as a maternity nurse at Reading Hospital, Marie joined the Public Health Service and served with the U.S. Army at Santa Isabel Hospital, Matanzas, Cuba. She later was appointed Superintendent of Nurses at Saint Thomas Hospital, Canal Zone, Panama.
Nurse Hidell gained valuable experience with tropical diseases while caring for workers on the Panama Canal Project who were stricken with yellow fever and malaria. Within months of her April 1918 assignment to the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, Marie Hidell and her fellow nurses confronted something never seen before, the worst pandemic in human history.
One evening during the crisis, Nurse Hidell admitted to the Naval Hospital 188 sailors stricken with the disease called the "purple death," the color its victims turned as they struggled for oxygen. Eventually, Hidell also succumbed to the disease.
At her funeral, attended by many of her Reading Hospital classmates, she was called a "martyr to her profession." A squad of U.S. Navy sailors fired a 21 gun salute over her flag draped coffin.
On Veterans Day, in 1920, Nurse Hidell (posthumously) was awarded the U.S. Navy's highest award for bravery, second only to the Medal of Honor: the Navy Cross. Only three women have ever received the Navy Cross. Her citation reads:
"The Navy Cross is presented to Marie Louise Hidell, Reserve Nurse, U.S. Navy, for distinguished service and devotion to duty while serving at the Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, Pa. During the epidemic of influenza, (she) worked day and night among the patients until stricken with the disease, as a result of which she lost her life on September 28, 1918."
Marie Louise Hidell was the daughter of Dora Robinson and Colonel William Henry Hidell.
For over 90 years, Nurse Hidell's grave remained unmarked until the H1N1 influenza virus reached pandemic status again in May 2009 and her role in the 1918 Pandemic was highlighted by the Los Angeles Times. Through the efforts of Reading historian Barry Kauffman and Historic Woodlands Cemetery executive director Jean K. Wolf, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provided a veterans' grave marker for Marie Louise Hidell.
Marie L. Hidell, Navy Cross's Timeline
Rome Floyd County Georgia
Philadelphia Philadelphia County Pennsylvania,
Woodlands Cemetery Philadelphia Philadelphia County Pennsylvania