TODAY THERE ARE AS MANY WOMEN AS THERE ARE MEN in dental schools. But 150 years ago it was very different. We admire and honor those women who paved the way.
Although a dental education wasn’t available to women until fairly recently, women have been practicing dentistry for a long time. This ranged from neighborhood women using traditional remedies, to women like Emeline Roberts Jones and Amalia Assur.
Amalia Assur learned dentistry in her family’s business… Her father was a dentist, and so was her brother. In Sweden, the Royal Board of Health granted her special permission to independently practice dentistry in 1852.
Around the same time in America, Emeline Roberts Jones was married to a dentist and served as his assistant for years. When her husband died in 1864, Emeline continued serving their patients. Later, she was awarded an honorary membership into the Connecticut Dental Society.
Lucy Hobbes Taylor earned her dental degree in 1866, but her road there was long and hard. She was initially denied entrance to medical school based on gender. Looking for a warmer welcome into dentistry, she started studying under the dean at the Ohio College of Dental Surgery. She applied for the college in 1861 and was denied.
Lucy persisted in apprenticing under several prestigious dentists, then boldly opened her own practice. After successfully treating patients for years and being admitted to the Iowa State Dental Society, she was finally accepted to the Ohio College of Dental Surgery in November, 1865. Because of her experience, she was only required to take one course before she was awarded her D.D.S. in 1866.
Other women struggled through societal restrictions, bureaucracy, and disadvantage to contribute to the field of dentistry. These include Ida Gray Nelson Rollins, the first African American dentist, and Grace Rogers Spalding, who co-founded the American Academy of Periodontology and helped spearhead the preventative dentistry and gum care movement.
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