THE ICON: Elizabeth Magnus Cohen
THE LEGACY: It was grief that gave Louisiana its first female physician. Her name was Elizabeth Magnus Cohen, and she was once a happy New York mother of five. Then, measles claimed her eldest son. Vowing to do what she could to help other mothers avoid the same pain, Cohen enrolled in medical school in 1853, then set up shop in New Orleans four years later, at a time in which outbreaks of yellow fever, smallpox and typhoid regularly wracked the city. She was reportedly just the 14th doctor licensed to practice in the city, and the first woman to do so in the state. She would go on to earn a reputation as a reliable and knowledgeable professional — even a “lucky hand” at difficult cases — and boasted that she never lost a patient. For three decades, she served as a caregiver to the sick of New Orleans. At the same time, she stood as a patient and dignified trailblazer, forging a path for generations of women to follow.
THE ARTIST: Queen Hope Parker
THE INSPIRATION: “All the doctors sent me cases. I can’t count all the babies I brought — in those days, women had 15 or 16 children as a matter of course. … I never knew what it was to have a whole night’s rest during 30 years. We didn’t have telephones, but messages came at all hours to my house in Baronne Street.” — Dr. Elizabeth Magnus Cohen, in a 1920 interview with The Times-Picayune