Early life and educationCole was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and would overcome racial and gender barriers to medical education by training in all-female institutions run by women who had been part of the first generation of female physicians graduating mid-century. Cole was the 2nd out of five children. Cole attended the Institute for Colored Youth, graduating in 1863. She then went on to graduate from the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1867, under the supervision of Ann Preston. Her graduate medical thesis was titled The Eye and Its Appendages. Afterwards Cole interned at Elizabeth Blackwell's New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children.
CareerCole went on to practice in South Carolina, then returned to Philadelphia, and in 1873 opened a Women's Directory Center to provide medical and legal services to destitute women and children. In January 1899, she was appointed superintendent of a home, run by the Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children in Washington, D.C.. The annual report for that year stated that she possessed "all the qualities essential to such a position-ability, energy, experience, tact." A subsequent report noted that:
Although Cole practiced medicine for fifty years, few records survive, and no images of her remain.Dr. Cole herself has more than fulfilled the expectations of her friends. With a clear and comprehensive view of her whole field of action, she has carried out her plans with the good sense and vigor which are a part of her character, while her cheerful optimism, her determination to see the best in every situation and in every individual, have created around her an atmosphere of sunshine that adds to the happiness and well being of every member of the large family.