Lucy Hobbs Taylor
The first American women to earn a degree in dentistry had to forge her own path to achieve this goal and then would in turn fight for the rights of other women to achieve their dreams.
Dr. Lucy Hobbs Taylor started out as a school teacher but her interest in medicine was sparked and she applied to medical school only to be denied due to her gender. At this refusal she was encouraged to look into dentistry, and again she was denied formal training because she was a woman. Instead she started an apprenticeship with a recent graduate of the dental school that denied her entry.
After learning the trade and even though she didn’t have a formal degree in dentistry she opened her own dental office, which was a common practice as many dentists at the time were not certified. A year later she moved her clinic to Iowa and within three years’ time her practice was profitable and she gained a reputation for excellence.
In 1865, the Iowa State Dental Association allowed her to join its membership and went so far as to pressure the Ohio College of Dental Surgery to admit her to its program. Because of her reputation and years of practice she was enrolled as a senior and was only required to attend one session and in 1866 became the first American women to earn a doctorate in dentistry.
Moving her practice to Chicago, she married a civil war veteran and began teaching him the art of dentistry. The couple then moved to Lawrence, Kansas and opened a joint practice which was considered to be one of the most successful in the state.
Upon her husband’s death in 1886 she essentially closed their practice and devoted her energies to fighting for the rights of women including their voting rights. In honor of her work and legacy the American Association of Women Dentists established the most prestigious of its awards, the Lucy Hobbs Taylor Award, given annually in recognition of professional excellence and achievements in advancing the role of women in dentistry.
Written by Angela Goad