Janet Kitz


Janet F. Kitz ONS MSM (January 12, 1930 – May 10, 2019)[1] was an educator, author and historian in Halifax, Nova Scotia who played a key role in the recognition of the 1917 Halifax Explosion, the largest man-made explosion prior to the atomic bomb and the worst man-made disaster in Canadian history.

Janet Frame Kitz

Janet Kitz
Janet Kitz, 2018
Born(1930-01-12)January 12, 1930
Carnwath, South Lanarkshire, Scotland
DiedMay 10, 2019(2019-05-10) (aged 89)
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
OccupationEducator, Historian, Writer
EducationLanark Grammar School and Jordanhill College, Glasgow
GenreCanadian history, Nova Scotia History
Notable works
SpouseLeonard Arthur Kitz

Early lifeEdit

Janet Frame Kitz, (née Brownlee) was born in Carnwath, South Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1930, daughter of Elizabeth (Rankin) and Thomas Brownlee, a noted horticulturalist.[2] She studied at the Lanark Grammar School and earned a Teaching Certificate from Jordanhill College in Glasgow.

Educational careerEdit

Kitz worked in education for 20 years, teaching first in London, then Davos, Switzerland, and then in the United States on the eastern shore of Maryland. She also worked as a British Red Cross Welfare Officer in Davos. Kitz was teaching in Edinburgh when she attended an event at the Edinburgh International Festival where she met Leonard Arthur Kitz a lawyer and former mayor from Halifax, Nova Scotia. They married in 1971 and Janet emigrated to Nova Scotia.[3]

Halifax explosionEdit

Museum workEdit

Kitz had never heard of the Halifax explosion before she moved to Halifax. However, while taking anthropology courses at Saint Mary's University, Kitz grew interested in the disaster and its effects on the people of Halifax.[4] The 1917 munitions explosion killed nearly 2,000 people but was little known outside of Halifax. Only two books had been written about the event in the 70 years after the explosion and the only commemoration was a library in the North End of Halifax.[5] After writing a paper about the explosion, Kitz was hired by the Nova Scotia Museum to assist the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in cataloguing thousands of objects in the mortuary collection of objects from victims of the explosion discovered in the basement of the provincial legislature. This led to a temporary exhibit at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic called "A Moment in Time" in 1987 which was expanded to become a permanent exhibit curated by Kitz called "Halifax Wrecked" in 1994. Kitz also began to interview survivors of the explosion and their families, a process which evolved to become an ongoing oral history project with explosion survivors and their families.[6]


Kitz's work at the museum led her to write the 1989 book Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion and the Road to Recovery. The book combined artifact research, oral history and documentary history to explore the explosion through the families involved. It has remained a definitive account which has influenced numerous works published since.[7][8] Kitz followed this book with Survivors: Children of the Halifax Explosion and December 1917: Revisiting the Halifax Explosion co-written with Dartmouth historian Joan Payzant in 2006.[9]

Public commemorationsEdit

Kitz was a founding member of the Halifax Explosion Memorial Bells Committee which created a monument to the disaster in 1985 at Fort Needham Park overlooking the site of disaster.[10] As part of this work, Kitz organized a reunion of survivors at the monument which became an annual event. Kitz chaired the committee that marked the 75th anniversary of the explosion in 1992 with an academic conference and a scholarly book Ground Zero.[11] She worked with the families of sailors from the ship SS Curaca, sunk during the explosion, to have their names inscribed on a monument in Halifax's Fairview Cemetery in 2001.[12] In 2002 she led research with former mayor Edmund Morris and the Halifax Foundation in 2002 to create a definitive list of the victims of the explosion called "The Book of Remembrance of the Halifax Explosion" presented in a detailed online database at the Nova Scotia Archives.[13][14]

Other worksEdit

Kitz served as a board member on the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Halifax, the Women's Auxiliary of the Isaac Walton Killam Hospital for Children and as chair of the Point Pleasant Park Commission. In 1999 she wrote the book A History of Point Pleasant Park.[15] Kitz also wrote the biography of the Canadian-American architect Andrew Cobb in 2014, Andrew Cobb: Architect and Artist.[16]


  1. ^ Andrew Rankin, "Explosion Authority Janet Kitz Dies at 89", Halifax Chronicle Herald, May 12, 2019
  2. ^ Obituary, "Janet Frame Kitz ONS MSM", Chronicle Herald May 14, 2019
  3. ^ "Janet F. Kitz Doctor of Letters", Saint Mary's University, Honorary Degrees
  4. ^ Lorna Inness and Tracy Leal, "Putting a Face on a disaster", Halifax Chronicle Herald, December 2, 2007, p.11
  5. ^ Shania Luck, "Halifax Explosion Gaining Momentum", Halifax Chronicle Herald, December 6, 2006
  6. ^ Inness and Leal, p. 12
  7. ^ Dean Jobb, "The Halifax Explosion Still Reverberates", Globe and Mail, December 2, 2017, p. P27
  8. ^ Michelle Brunet, "Halifax Explosion by the Book", Atlantic Books Today, December 3, 2014
  9. ^ Inness and Leal, p. 12
  10. ^ "Gathering on Fort Needham", Halifax Daily News, June 10, 1985
  11. ^ Cathy Nicoll, "Explosion Anniversary Committee Wins City Funds", Halifax Daily News, June 6, 1991
  12. ^ Inness and Leal, p. 12
  13. ^ "Janet F. Kitz Doctor of Letters", Saint Mary's University, Honorary Degrees
  14. ^ The Halifax Explosion Remembrance Book, ' 'Nova Scotia Archives
  15. ^ "Janet F. Kitz Doctor of Letters", Saint Mary's University, Honorary Degrees
  16. ^ "Henry Roper, "Andrew Cobb: Halifax's celebrity architect", Halifax Chronicle Herald, December 19, 2014". Archived from the original on August 7, 2018. Retrieved December 4, 2017.

External linksEdit

  • Obituary, "Janet Frame Kitz ONS MSM", Chronicle Herald May 14, 2019