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First Lady of Labrador, Canada

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Amazing young inexperienced managed to produce authentic maps of the interior of Labrador.

Mina Hubbard, Canadian Explorer

Mina Hubbard, Canadian Explorer

Mina Hubbard, Walking a Trail

Mina Hubbard, Walking a Trail

Newspaper Headlines Explorers of Labrador

Newspaper Headlines Explorers of Labrador

Leonidas and Mina Hubbard

Mina Hubbard was a Canadian naive explorer and the first white woman to travel, photograph, and explore the interior of the wilderness of Labrador, Canada. Born on an apple farm to an Irish father and English mother, she was one of eight children. After graduating from nursing school in 1899, she worked at a hospital on Staten Island, New York, and nursing Leonidas Hubbard. They were married shortly thereafter on January 31, 1901. Leonidas, a journalist, had graduated from the University of Michigan and working for an outdoor magazine.

He wanted to do an article on the wilderness of Labrador, so he and companion Dillon Wallace and a Cree guide, George Elson, set off. Unfortunately, they were not sufficiently supplied, got lost, and suffered from hypothermia. Elson and Wallace decided to go for help leaving Hubbard in the tent. By the time they returned, Hubbard had died of starvation.

It took three months for the news to reach his widow Mina. She was totally devastated, and soon she asked Wallace to write a book to memorialize her husband. Instead, his book depicted Hubbard as a lovable but bumbling amateur solely responsible for the expedition's failure.

Of course, incensed and so furious, she was determined to reclaim her husband's honor by exploring Labrador herself.

She began making plans for her own exploration and learned to do map-making and take latitude readings. She convinced Elson to be her lead guide and hired three more native guides. She purchased two nineteen foot canoes, plenty of supplies and camping gear and ammunition. At the same time, Wallace was preparing his own exploration trip. By now, the newspapers got wind of the two expeditions and made it their headlines.

This was a time when women explorers were unheard of, especially in the largest and most northern part of Atlantic Canada, Labrador. And so, young, naive Mina set out with her Kodak folding pocket camera and a Kodak panoramic camera.

Detail Map

Detail Map

George River, Labrador

George River, Labrador

The 576 Nautical Miles of the Naskaupee and George River

Mina and her expedition set off from the northwest post in Labrador, north of Grand Lake, on the 576 canoe trip heading upstream along the river through Lake Michikaman and Lake Michikamois. They then headed downstream along with the George River Post (now Quebec). This was the time when no white people had been in the interior of Labrador, and no one had ever met the Naskapi First Nation People. Mina has witnessed a caribou migration and took photos of them.

The trip was grueling with mosquitoes by the thousands and black flies as big as wasps. Mina had devised a way to place netting over the hat to avoid the flies. All the while, Mina was photographing flora, rapids, and mountains. Diligent about taking latitude readings and recording everything. Along the way, she named Lake Hubbard in honor of her husband, named Lake Elson in honor of her lead guide, and Lake Adelaide after herself. Mia's expedition made it to the end of their trip. As she was sipping tea and in an armchair, six weeks later, Wallace and his expedition made it to the end.

It is difficult to see how an inexperienced young woman preserved on such a hazardous trip, yet she found beauty and peace in the majestic wilderness.


Map Showing where Leonidas died

Map Showing where Leonidas died

Mina Cooking at Campfire

Mina Cooking at Campfire

First Nations People, Labrador

First Nations People, Labrador

After Mina's Expedition

Mina went on to lecture about her explorations of the wilderness of Labrador. Her accurate maps were recognized by both the American and British Geological Societies and were the basis used for decades. She was also made a Fellow of the British Royal Geological Society in 1927. She later remarried a scion of the coal fortune and settled in an English mansion in England. She never made another expedition but did see Elson one more time before returning to England. So this gutsy, naive woman managed to discover the wilderness interior of Labrador. There is a renewed interest in her contributions to discovery, and several books have been written about her exploration.

In her book,A Woman's Way Through Unknown Labrador is in her own words of the expedition she made and complete in memory of her husband. It is full of her trials and experiences on the expedition.

Comments

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on January 24, 2021:

Rosina, thank you for your kind comments. Your visit is appreciated.

Rosina S Khan on January 23, 2021:

This was an interesting account of a woman who explored Labrador in the wilderness when women explorers were rare. It's good she wrote her own book, describing her experiences of the expedition, complete in the memory of her husband. I am also glad others found it interesting to write books about her expedition. Thanks for the wonderful share, Fran.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on January 23, 2021:

Interesting article. Inspiring.

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