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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Lucy Beaman Hobbs Taylor. First woman dentist.

Lucy Beaman Hobbs Taylor taught school in Michigan in the 1850s. But what she really wanted to be was a dentist. In 1859 she traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio, to fulfill her dream. But both the Eclectic College of Medicine and the Ohio College of Dentistry refused her admission. No woman in the world had been a dentist, and neither school faculty was about to mint the first one.
However, one dentist taught her the basics of pulling teeth. And dentists were not licensed then. After a couple of months of apprenticeship, she opened her own practice, eventually heading west to Iowa, where she found a dental society willing to take her in, and a husband, James M. Taylor. After they married in 1867, she convinced him to become a dentist.

From the Watkins Community Museum in Lawrence, Kansas:
Late in 1867, the Doctors Taylor moved to the western town of Lawrence, Kansas, where they soon established a large and successful practice. Although the Taylors themselves did not become parents, much of their practice focused on women and children. Many patients referred to the highly respected woman as "Dr. Lucy." After her husband's death in 1886, she retired from most of her professional duties but remained active in civic and political causes, including the woman's suffrage movement. She gained recognition by her peers and fellow citizens as a pioneer in opening the doors for women to dentistry. By the turn of the century, almost one thousand women were welcomed to the profession -- a sign of immense progress for which Lucy Hobbs Taylor could take considerable credit.
Of her career in Kansas, Dr. Taylor wrote, "I am a New Yorker by birth, but I love my adopted country -- the West. To it belongs the credit of making it possible for women to be recognized in the dental profession on equal terms with men."
By the time she retired in 1900 as the world's first woman dentist, roughly 1,000 women were dentists. In retirement, she worked for women's suffrage

It is interesting that so many of the women pioneers in various fields in America lived west of the Mississippi. The area was sparsely populated and needed skilled people as possible. Horace Greeley's admonition to go west, young man, applied doubly to young women. She also had the opportunity to ply her trade without a license. Lifting that barrier to entry meant she did not need the approval of her male peers -- who had blackballed her at two dental schools.

She had to prove herself. Everyone does. But in America, she had the opportunity to do so, an opportunity denied elsewhere. And yes, there were people who stood in her way. She overcame them, making it easier for the next person. That's what pioneers do.

2 comments:

  1. Where there's a need, someone to fill it will show up.

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    ReplyDelete