Sometimes people have a calling to do something great, something that leaves a legacy. Dr. Rosa Minoka Hill had that inner voice telling her to serve and so she did. Her work and determination to help others affected both those treated by her and by all of those around her. Dr. Hill’s renowned service and intriguing story gave her not only a special spot in Green Bay history, but also a rightful place among some of the most influential people of Brown County.
Dr. Rosa Minoka Hill was born in New Jersey in 1876 to a Mohawk mother and a Quaker physician. She earned her M.D. at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania while keeping her ties to her Native American roots. She eventually established her own medical practice in Philadelphia. She provided care at the Lincoln Institute where she met Anna Hill, an Oneida girl from Brown County. Then she met Anna’s brother, Charles, a student at the Carlisle Indian School. They married in 1905 and the newly wed Charles and Dr. Rosa Minoka Hill moved back to Charles’ home in Oneida.
At first Dr. Rosa Minoka Hill played the expected role of farmhouse wife. She gave up her practice until she realized the medical needs of the people in her new home. She knew providing medical care was something worthwhile and worked with native medicine men. Dr. Hill was able to blend her medical practices with the tribal practices. This way, rich cultural aspects were combined with innovative technology to provide the best care possible. She had a “kitchen clinic” for many years. It was open from 7am to 10pm every day and all were welcome. Dr. Hill became known by the name Yo-da-gent, meaning “she who serves” in Oneida. * Her understanding of culture, tolerance, and willingness to serve all who needed is something we can all admire.
Charles died in 1916 leaving Rosa with six children and a mortgaged farm. These circumstances along with the Great Depression led Rosa to pursue a medical license in Wisconsin even though she already had one in Pennsylvania. She had to borrow the $100 to take the Wisconsin Medical License Exam. She passed the exam at the age of 58 and opened a practice in town. She practiced and served there for 12 years.
It is obvious that Dr. Hill had a calling to help others. She was determined to not let the expectations society had of women during that time to distract her from what she wanted to do. She was able to have a family and serve all those who needed help. She eventually had to provide for her family and found a way to do so while providing necessary medical care to others. Her passion, strength, and respect for people of all backgrounds are things we can admire today.
* Dreamers and Doers : A Project of Green Bay Area Branch American Association of University Women, 1994
* Dr. Rosa Minoka Hill Green Bay Public School, https://minokahill.gbaps.org/
St. Norbert College