Fanny Rosenfeld was born in Ekaterinoslav in the Russian Empire, now Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine, in 1904. Later that year, her family emigrated to Canada, settling in Barrie, Ontario. Rosenfeld excelled in sports throughout elementary and high school, where she earned the nickname “Bobbie” because of her short “bobbed” hair.
In 1922, when her family moved to Toronto, she joined the Young Women’s Hebrew Association (YWHA) and joined their basketball team. In 1923, they went on to win both the Toronto and Ontario basketball championships. Later that year, at a picnic in Beaverton, Rosenfeld defeated Rosa Grosse, who was Canadian champion at the time, in the 100-yard dash.
Rosenfeld participated in the Ontario Ladies Track and Field Championships in 1925. In a single day, she placed first in discus, the 220-yard dash, shotput, long jump, and low hurdles, and she placed second in the 100-yard dash and javelin. Rosenfeld quickly became recognized as one of the greatest Canadian female athletes, with national records in the 440-yard open relay, standing broad jump, discus, javelin, and shotput. She competed in the 1928 Summer Olympic Games, where she won the gold medal in the 4 x 100 relay and a silver medal in the 91-metre dash.
Bobbie’s athletic interests extended beyond track and field, though. She played on various other championship teams in ice hockey, softball, and fastball. In 1924, after having just recently taken up playing tennis, she won the Toronto Ladies Grass Court Tennis championship. She was also involved in competitive golf, lacrosse, and speed skating. Throughout the 1920s, she was called the superwoman of ladies’ hockey and, in 1932, she was named the most outstanding female hockey player in Ontario.
Even after she was forced to stop competing because of her arthritis in 1933, Rosenfeld continued to be heavily involved in the world of sports, coaching of the Canadian Women’s track and field team at the British Commonwealth Games in London, England. Even her newfound love of journalism led her back to the sports world when, in 1936, she began to work in the sports department of the Globe and Mail. In 1937, she created a column called Feminine Sports Reel, where she covered women’s sports for 18 years.
In 1950, Rosenfeld was voted Canada’s Female Athlete of the Half Century by the Canadian Press. In tribute to her, the outlet has been awarding Canada’s Top Female Athlete of the Year with the “Bobbie Rosenfeld Trophy” since 1978. In 1981, Rosenfeld was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in the Wingate Institute of Physical Culture near Netanyah, Israel. In 1987, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada honored Rosenfeld as one of the most important sports figures in Canadian history. She was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.
Bobbie Rosenfeld will be remembered by Canadians for much more than her athletic abilities. By challenging the stereotypes concerning women in sport, she played a foundational role in altering how women in sports were viewed and quickly became a role model for young women in Canada. She was considered, amongst five other women, for a new Canadian banknote that honours historical Canadian women.