Dr. Minnie Cohen: Women’s History Month

Today, we celebrate the medical career of Dr. Minnie Cohen – a young Jewish woman in Toronto who overcame many challenges and barriers in the 1920s to achieve her dream of becoming a pediatrician.  

Dr. Minnie Cohen (Wladowsky), 1921

During her time at medical school, Dr. Minnie Cohen was one of only seven women in a class of approximately one hundred and fifty men, and the only Jewish woman. She recalled facing constant discrimination by her professors and classmates.  

While in medical school at The University of Toronto (UofT), Minnie was accepted as a junior intern at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) in 1919. Over the next two years, she continued to intern at WCH during the summers and on holidays. After graduating with a medical degree in 1921, Dr. Minnie Cohen completed post-graduate studies in pediatrics in Chicago, and then returned to Toronto where she started her own private practice as a pediatrician.  

Even after graduation, Dr. Cohen maintained a relationship with WCH. In 1923, she was a founding member of WCH’s Community Clinical Association – a group of female doctors who provided “free medical attention to the needy poor of the city” and volunteered to oversee the “Well Baby Free Clinic” that operated out of the Euclid Avenue Church every Wednesday. 

This Women’s History Month, we recognize the determination and courage of Dr. Minnie Cohen. Despite the many challenges and barriers that she faced as the first Jewish woman to graduate from UofT’s Faculty of Medicine and as the first female Jewish doctor to practice in Toronto, she fulfilled her dream of running a successful practice as a pediatrician and continued to give back to the community throughout her career. We are proud that Dr. Cohen chose WCH as the place to start her medical career.