Ruth Rothstein, the chief of Cook County Bureau of Health Services—the third largest public health system in the nation—was interviewed on March 3, 2003, by David Johnson. She was raised by a religious mother and socialist father in Depression-era Brownsville, attended Yiddish shule, and directly after high school began work as a union organizer (which landed her in jail for a month-long sentence). Among her professional achievements are establishing thirty neighborhood outpatient clinics and reconnecting the initially Jewish hospital with its increasingly Latino and African-American neighborhood. Highlights include her description of rising from a clerical position to president of the hospital in six years, despite her lack of professional female mentors and a college degree. Her analysis of sexism in male Jewish workplaces is especially interesting, as are her memories of race and labor conflicts in the 1940s.
Ruth's interview begins with her childhood in Brownsville, New York, her father’s activism, and her Jewish identity when younger. She then recounts her work with union organizing, including at United Electrical Workers’ Union-CIO, Mt. Sinai, and Jackson Park Hospital. Rothstein also talked about how her Jewish identity contributed to her career, where she mentions the Jewish hospital movement, and her current work at Cook County Hospital.
How to cite this page
Oral History of Ruth Rothstein. Interviewed by David Johnson. 3 March 2003. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 1, 2023) <https://jwa.org/oralhistories/rothstein-ruth>.
Oral History of Ruth Rothstein by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jwa.org/contact/OralHistory.