Dorothy Dworkin

Portrait of Dorothy Dworkin circa 1930

Awe inspiring, powerful, and resilient, community leader and entrepreneur Dorothy Dworkin (née Goldstick, 1890–1976) never shied away from a challenge. Born “about the middle” of eleven children to Wolfe and Sarah Goldstick, Dorothy emigrated from Latvia to Canada in 1904. In her written reflections on the founding of Mount Sinai Hospital, Dorothy began with a biographical sketch where she described her parents as highly esteemed and faithfully observant, noting that both “worshipped knowledge and dreamed of providing their children with an education.” In 1907, at the age of seventeen, Dorothy chose to do meaningful work over the “mediocre work” that was typically afforded to young immigrant women of her background and generation. Little did she know then that her first job at Toronto’s Jewish Dispensary would not only set her on a path that led to her continued education as a nurse, with a specialization in midwifery, but that it would also set her up to become a powerful health advocate for Toronto’s Jewish community.

Dworkin’s work and accomplishments can be attributed in part to her innovation. Working directly with the community through Toronto’s Jewish Dispensary, she identified pressing needs and worked swiftly and collectively to address notable gaps. In 1910, she helped form a women’s auxiliary unit for the dispensary which raised awareness and much needed funds to establish Toronto’s first Jewish orphanage. By the 1920s, she helped open Mount Sinai Hospital, and she soon served as president of its Women’s Auxiliary.  By the close of the decade, Dworkin was confronted with the extraordinary challenge of the sudden accidental death of her husband, Henry Dworkin. The pair were married in 1911 and had their daughter, Honey, in 1912. They were one of the most influential couples in the 1920s advocating for Jewish immigration from Europe to Canada through Henry and his brother’s business, E. & H. Dworkin Steamship and Bankers, later Dworkin Travel. Although Dorothy had begun working with her husband in the family business, her continued work and involvement in the business and organizations like the Labor Lyceum, was propelled to new heights to fill the void left by Henry’s death. There were more than fifteen thousand people reported to be in attendance at his funeral, demonstrating that the Dworkins’ impact in the community was far reaching.

The cornerstone of Dworkin’s work was Jewish aid. Throughout her life, Dorothy remained active and devoted to supporting those in need. She was firmly rooted in the Jewish community and served the community in a most personal and profound way. Evidence of her work fills the newspaper pages of twentieth-century Toronto. Her legacy lies in her devotion to the establishment and continued operation of Mount Sinai Hospital and the descendants of countless individuals aided in her lifetime by the work of Dworkin Travel.  Dorothy Dworkin remained active in the family business and supportive of Mount Sinai Hospital up until her death in 1976 at the age of eighty-six. Her contributions to the Toronto community are recognized through her receipt of countless awards and honours, and her legacy is a source of inspiration to be celebrated by future generations of advocates and leaders.

Archivist Notes

What was it like to be a woman born at the turn of the twentieth century? What professional and educational opportunities existed for young Jewish immigrant women in Toronto?  How do you acquire the skills and education necessary to become a health care provider, advocate, travel agent, and community leader? Examining the Dorothy Dworkin records, along with those of her sister, Betty Goldstick Lindgren, and grandson, Harry Arthurs, we can begin to answer these and many other questions concerning Jewish life in the twentieth century. Among the remarkable records included in these collections are photo albums, business correspondence, personal correspondence, postcards, and a remarkable album of condolences for Henry Dworkin.  These records provide an intimate view into the lives of the Dworkin family, while sharing the history of the community itself.

Portrait of Dorothy Dworkin circa 1930

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