As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let’s take a minute to read about these powerful women who have made a tremendous impact on Dentistry.
Emeline Roberts Jones: The first practicing female dentist
A New England native, Emeline Roberts married dentist Daniel Jones in 1854 at the age of 18. He believed that women were not suited to dentistry but Emeline persisted in secretly studying dentistry. After she had secretly filled and extracted several hundred teeth -her husband allowed her to practice with him. She was 19. When she was 23, she became his partner, and when her husband died in 1865, she took over the practice and traveled around Connecticut and Rhode Island before settling in New Haven. Her career spanned 6 decades and in 1914 was made an honorary member of the National Dental Association.
While Emeline Roberts Jones was the first woman to practice dentistry in 1855, it wasn’t until 1866 that the first woman earned her DDS. That honor went to Lucy Hobbs Taylor (born in 1833). Dr. Taylor and her 9 siblings were orphaned when she was 12, and she spent much of her childhood supporting her family by working as a seamstress. She still devoted time to her education and moved to Michigan where she taught for 10 years. In this time, she discovered her passion for medicine and moved to Cincinnati to apply to the Eclectic Medical College.
Because of her gender, Dr. Taylor was denied entry, and so she went directly to the faculty: A supervisor from EMC tutored her and from there she applied to the Ohio College of Dentistry. Refused admission again, she studied with Dr. Jonathan Taft of the Ohio College of Dentistry. She opened her own practice in Cincinnati in 1861, and finally, 7 years after she had moved to begin her dentistry studies, she received her DDS in 1866 through the Ohio College of Dental Surgery. Dr. Taylor met her husband the following year and her love for her work was contagious: She convinced him to pursue dentistry and the pair practiced for another 20 years. By 1900, nearly 1,000 women had followed in Lucy Hobbs Taylor’s wake and went into dentistry.
Ida Gray: The first African-American female dentist
Ida Gray, much like Lucy Hobbs Taylor, grew up an orphan. Overcoming an underprivileged childhood, Dr. Gray also encountered Dr. Jonathan Taft when she began working in his office while studying at Gaines High School in Chicago. She learned enough to enter the University of Michigan -School of Dentistry in 1887, and graduated in 1990. While Dr. Gray grew up going to a segregated school, she became famous first in Cincinnati and later in Chicago for seeing both black and white patients, and when she began to practice in Chicago, she inspired one of her patients, Olive M. Henderson, to become the city’s second black female dentist.
Sara Gdulin Krout: The Navy’s Dentist
In 1944, immigrant Sara Gdulin Krout became the first woman dentist in the U.S. Navy. A dual-DDS from her native Latvia and the University Of Illinois- College Of Dentistry, Dr. Krout was prevented from enlisting directly as a female dentist due to the military’s restrictions. In order to serve, she joined the U.S. Navy’s Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services (WAVES) and served as a lieutenant. She was on active duty at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station from 1944 to 1946 and continued in the Naval Reserve until her retirement in 1961.
Jeanne C. Sinkford: The first female dean of any dental program
Born in 1933, Jeanne C. Sinkford began her studies at Howard University in 1949 when she was 16. Originally pursuing studies in psychology and chemistry, she turned her attention to dental school and went on to earn a PhD in physiology at Northwestern University. Dr. Sinkford’s work in academic leadership led to her becoming the first female dean of an American dental school in 1975 when she took over the leadership for Howard’s dental program, a position she held until 1991. From there, she became associate executive director of the American Dental Education Association, where she established its Center for Equity and Diversity in 1988.