Celebrating Women in Dentistry

Did You Know? In 1968 only 1.1% of dental students were female. Fifty years later, with the incoming class of 2018 that number topped 50%.  What a remarkable increase.

So, who are some of the most influential women in Dentistry? From the first female dentist to the foundation of the Women’s Dental Association, we will share the journey of women in dentistry.

Emeline Roberts Jones: A New England native, was the first practicing female dentist (1855) at the age of 19.  Women were not allowed to study or practice dentistry at that time, and therefore, Emeline kept her talents secret until her husband eventually allowed her to join his practice with him.

Lucy Hobbs Taylor:  Lucy was the first woman to receive a D.D.S. in 1866. After being consistently denied education based on her gender, she was tutored by a faculty member from the Eclectic Medical College and later went on to study with Dr. Johnathan Taft from the Ohio College of Dentistry.  She opened her own practice and seven years later earned her D.D.S. from the Ohio College of Dental Surgery.

Ida Gray:  The first African-American female dentist, Ida graduated from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in 1890. She was well known for seeing both black and white patients. Highly influential in the community, she even inspired one of her patients, Olive M. Henderson, to pursue dentistry.  Olive later became the second African-American female dentist.

In addition to these dental pioneers here are some other important names to know:

Clara W. MacNaughton was a strong advocate for women’s voting rights and one of the first female dentists in the late 1800’s. She was so involved with the women’s suffrage movement she relocated her practice to Washington D.C. so she could be at the heart of the cause.

Vida Annette Latham was a strong advocate for dentistry pushing for stronger science curriculum within dental schools. Vida was an active advocate that dentistry was equally important as medicine. An idea that remains consistent in today’s practice.

Leonie von Zesch was the first paid female dentist in the U.S Army and quite an adventurer.  As Alaska’s first female dentist she was so dedicated to her practice and dentistry she would travel by dog sled in the winter to see patients. If that wasn’t adventurous enough, she also disguised as a man to practice within the Navy as women were still not accepted as dentists. She was eventually caught and replaced by a man.

Jeanne C. Sinkford who overcame both gender and race barriers to become the first Dean of a dental school. Determined to increase the female dentist population she consistently worked to recruit both women and minority students into the dental profession.

As you can see the journey for women within the dental industry has been challenging, but determined female dentists have made huge strides.  Just imagine what the next 50 years might bring!