Founded in 1859, the American Dental Association has been celebrating their sesquicentennial all this year. In each month’s ADA News publication they have been highlighting significant events and people from across America’s dental history.
A recent issue highlighted the benchmark contributions of Dr. Lucy Hobbs Taylor, America’s first woman dentist!
Today a typical American dental school class would exhibit roughly a 55%/45% male/female breakdown but that certainly has not always been the case. Indeed up until the 1970’s dentistry in America was essentially a man’s profession. The dental school pathway followed by today’s women was paved largely by one initial boat-rocking woman. Dr. Lucy Hobbs Taylor’s story is certainly one of achievement, but a healthy dose of persistence, determination, and courage must also be folded in.
Born in 1833 in Constable, NY, Lucy was drawn to issues of health from the beginning. She may have started out teaching school in Michigan but in 1859 she moved to Cincinnati and applied to the Eclectic College of Medicine. Her application was denied. She was a woman! Lucy refused to throw in the towel. She engaged one of the school’s professors in a private course of study and later applied to the Ohio College of Dental Surgery. Once again her application was rejected. It seems she was still a woman. Once again Lucy appealed to the dean of the college and received private tutoring. Finally at age 28 in 1861 Lucy opened a dental practice in Cincinnati! Now there is a trivia question for next year’s quiz. In what city did America’s first woman dentist first practice? Cincinnati!
Lucy later left Cincinnati in her rear-view mirror and headed out to Iowa where she continued to practice dentistry and even gained acceptance by the Iowa State Dental Society. In 1865 she was sent by her Iowa colleagues to represent them as a delegate at the convention of the American Dental Association in Chicago. With Iowa’s recognition Lucy suddenly found the Ohio College of Dental Surgery more inclined to consider her viability as a student. Having received credit for her past accomplishments she was accepted into the school’s senior class in November of 1865 and graduated with her doctorate in dentistry just four months later in February of 1866! In the aftermath of America’s Civil War, Lucy married a veteran, James Taylor who later became a dentist himself, under the guidance of his accomplished wife.
Ultimately the couple moved to Lawrence, Kansas and quickly established a large and busy practice. It was here in Lawrence that Lucy died on October 3, 1910 at the age of 77.
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