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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 312

Papers of Ethel Cohen, 1918-1977


Correspondence, articles, reports, etc., of Ethel Cohen, medical social worker.


  • Creation: 1918-1977

Language of Materials

Materials in English.


Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


2.09 linear feet (4 file boxes, 2 half file boxes)

Except for four folders of personal material (1-4), these are Ethel Cohen's professional papers. Additional material from the Radcliffe Alumnae Pamphlets collection was added in June 2018 (see #1, 60-70).

Series I, Personal papers, consists of biographical material (curriculum vitae, certificates, and other items); travel letters; correspondence with various libraries concerning her papers; and photographs of Ethel Cohen as an adult, alone and with others. There are no family papers or photographs.

Series II, Professional papers, concerns Cohen's work at Beth Israel Hospital, as an instructor, and as a consultant. Also included are copies of her articles, papers, and special studies.

Most of the professional papers pertain to Cohen's directorship of the Social Service Department at Beth Israel Hospital. They include annual reports (6-8), correspondence (9-10), and outlines, notes and other materials for teaching Tufts and Harvard medical students the social aspects of disease (12).

Other professional correspondence and reports are arranged alphabetically by the title of the agency or publication. The most important are Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO), Journal of Chronic Diseases, the Children's Bureau, and the Veterans' Administration. The Hadassah Medical Organization papers (33-40) pertain to Cohen's study of the organization and its social service to patients and includes notebooks, correspondence, and the report itself.

Cohen was a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Chronic Diseases; #41-46 contain correspondence about the Journal and drafts of her articles and book reviews.

As a medical social consultant for the Children's Bureau, Cohen made field visits to the western United States and did research on convalescent care for rheumatic children. Included here (47-52) are her reports and correspondence, primarily between Cohen and Edith M. Baker, principal consultant in medical social work for the Children's Bureau.

Cohen continued her interest in training doctors in the social aspects of disease as a special consultant to the Veterans' Administration; #53-58 contain articles and correspondence.

Other articles, papers and reports by Cohen are arranged chronologically at the end of the professional papers (59-71). They reflect her interest in various aspects of medical social work; #59 contains a bibliography. Also included are bulletins that mention Cohen.


Ethel Cohen, medical social worker, was born on May 25, 1892, in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Rose Myra (Titelbaum) and Herman Cohen. She grew up in Chelsea, Massachusetts; after the Chelsea Fire of 1908 the family moved to Dorchester but Cohen continued to attend Chelsea High School, graduating in June 1909. She was graduated from Radcliffe College in 1913 with a BA degree (Cum Laude) in German. After taking a business course at the Chandler Normal Shorthand School (1914) she worked as a stenographer for professors at Harvard University; the Department of Archaeology at Phillips Academy, Andover; and the law firm of Crocker and Dutch. From 1921 to 1927 she was a medical social worker for the American Red Cross and on the staff of the Chelsea Naval Hospital. In 1928 she was graduated from Simmons College School of Social Work with a MS degree in Medical Social Work; her thesis was A Study of One Hundred and Thirty Two Clients with Chronic and Incurable Diseases Known to the Federated Jewish Charities, Boston, Massachusetts, October 1, 1926 to September 30, 1927.

From 1928 to 1949 she first organized and then served as director of the Social Service Department at Beth Israel Hospital (BIH-SSD), Boston. During that time she held faculty appointments at Simmons College School of Social Work (1936-1949) and Tufts Medical College (1934-1949); served as a medical social consultant to the United States Children's Bureau to assist in the initiation of the Rheumatic Fever Program (1940); as a regional medical social consultant to nine western states and two territories, also for the Children's Bureau (1943-1944); and as a special consultant to the Department of Medicine and Surgery, Research and Education Service of the Veterans' Administration, involved in their residency training program (1949-1952).

After resigning as director of Social Service Department at Beth Israel Hospital, Cohen continued to serve there as a consultant. In 1952 she was awarded a Fulbright Research Fellowship to study at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. This was followed in November 1952 by an invitation from the Hadassah Medical Organization in Israel to do a study of their medical program in relation to social service to patients. Other consulting positions included studies for The Boston Lying-In Hospital (1953); the Community Health Project, Harvard School of Public Health (1954); Blythedale, an institution for orthopedically handicapped children, Valhalla, New York (1954); United Community Services of Metropolitan Boston, Health Division (1955); Fordham University School of Social Service (1955); Free Hospital for Women, Brookline, Massachusetts (1955); National Association of Social Workers (1956, 1958); Baerwald School of Social Welfare, Hebrew University, Jerusalem (1962-1963); Children's Hospital Medical Center, Boston (1963); and St. Elizabeth's Hospital, Social Service Department, Brighton, Massachusetts (1965).

During August and September 1976 Cohen was interviewed for the William E. Wiener Oral History Library of the American Jewish Committee; a typed transcript of those interviews is in the Schlesinger Library (OH/26 Cohen.)

Ethel Cohen died on May 6, 1977 shortly before her 85th birthday; she was buried in Adath Jerusalem Cemetery, West Roxbury, Massachusetts.


The collection is arranged in two series:

  1. I. Personal papers, 1-4
  2. II. Professional papers, 5-71

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 74-274, 75-167, 76-81, 76-89, 77-M76, 77-M96, 86-M212

The papers of Ethel Cohen were given to the Schlesinger Library in October 1974, January and May 1975 and March 1976 by Ethel Cohen, in June 1977 by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, in July 1977 by the estate of Ethel Cohen, and in October 1986 by Virginia Insley. They were processed under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (RC-0051-79-1260).


The following items have been removed from the collection and donated to the Radcliffe College Archives, January 1980:

  1. Duplicates of Ethel Cohen's printed articles


  1. Box 1: 1-20
  2. Box 2: 21-32
  3. Box 3: 33-40
  4. Box 4: 41-46
  5. Box 5: 47-58
  6. Box 6: 59-71


A selective index of writers of letters. Information about individuals is not indexed; nor are subjects.

  1. Bain, Katherine - 57
  2. Baker, Edith M. - 49-51
  3. Bennett, Doris R. - 2
  4. Blackley, Eileen - 54-57
  5. Blumgart, Hermann L. - 57
  6. Cantor, Shulamith L. - 38
  7. Carpenter, Marie - 50
  8. Clarke, Sylvia - 2
  9. Cohen, Ethel - 2, 3, 9, 10, 32, 38, 39, 40, 49, 50, 51, 54-58
  10. Criger, Eleanor - 51
  11. Cumming, Roger - 55-57
  12. Cushing, E. H. - 55-58
  13. Daily, Edwin F. - 50
  14. Davis, Eli - 38
  15. de Vries, A. - 38
  16. Druckmann-Frankenstein, R. - 39
  17. Epler, Edith I. - 9
  18. Frankfurter, Felix - 2
  19. Fried, Fanny - 39
  20. Gardiner, Elizabeth G. - 9
  21. Glehaw, Sophie - 2
  22. Goldberg, Hannah L. - 39
  23. Greenberg, Irving - 56
  24. Hirsh, Joseph - 38
  25. Kahn, Dorothy C. - 39
  26. Kapiloff, Helen B. - 52
  27. Katz, Israel - 40
  28. Lothrop, Theodore A. - 9
  29. McMahon, Kate - 54, 55
  30. Mann, Kalman J. - 39, 40
  31. Mixter, Charles G., Jr. - 2
  32. Paassen, Pierre van - 2
  33. Player, Alison - 2
  34. Poole, Mary L. - 2
  35. Rosensohn, Samuel J. (Mrs.) - 39
  36. Ryle, John A. - 2
  37. Schroeder, Agnes H. - 9
  38. Segal, Abram - 2
  39. Seltzer, Edith G. - 9
  40. Senator, David W. - 39
  41. Shereshefsky, Pauline Miller - 39
  42. Shulman, Rebecca - 39
  43. Sterne, Eugene H. Jr. - 58
  44. Stipe, Jack H. - 54, 55
  45. Sugarman, Bertram A. - 9
  46. Thornton, Janet - 9
  47. Tulin, Abraham (Mrs.) - 39
  48. Unger, Jerome (Rabbi) - 2
  49. Wallace, Ellen B. - 56, 57
  50. Warren, Laura Elinore - 49-51
  51. Waters, Lena R. - 9
  52. Webb, Constance B. - 9
  53. Yassky, H. - 38

Processing Information

Processed: January 1981

By: Madeleine Bagwell Perez

Updated and additional materials added: June 2018

By: Anne Engelhart

Cohen, Ethel, 1892-1977. Papers of Ethel Cohen, 1918-1977: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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