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Sunday, Mar. 15th 2015

Lucy Hobbs Taylor: A Dental Pioneer

March is Women’s History Month, and what better way to celebrate than to spotlight one of the dental industry’s great innovators?  Lucy Hobbs Taylor was the first woman to graduate dental school in the United States.  Born in Constable, New York, Taylor graduated from the Iowa College of Dental Surgery in 1866.  She worked as a school teacher in Wisconsin for ten years, but never gave up her dream of higher education.

Initially denied entry to medical school in Cincinnati, Taylor entered private study under the dean of the Ohio College of Dental Surgery.  Despite this, she was still denied entry to dental school, and opened her own private practice in Ohio.  Four years later, in 1865, Taylor was accepted to the Ohio State Dental Society, who sent her to the 1865 American Dental Association convention in Chicago as their delegate.  She finally earned her degree in February 1866.

In late 1867, Taylor and her husband, also a dentist, moved out to Lawrence, Kansas and began their practice.  The practice was very successful, and “Dr. Lucy” became a highly respected professional.  Here’s what she had to say about her new home:

“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.”

Dr. Taylor continued practicing until her husband passed away in 1886.  Though she retired from dentistry, she spent her remaining years fighting for women’s suffrage, as well as other political and civil causes.

Lucy Hobbs Taylor passed away on October 3rd, 1910 at the age of 77.  In her own lifetime, her influence was deeply felt: by the year 1900, there were almost a thousand female dentists in the United States, with Taylor paving the way for them.  In 1983, the American Association of Women Dentists began giving the annual Lucy Hobbs Taylor Award to distinguished women dentists.  In their words, “This award recognizes a woman dentist who has contributed to the advancement, enrichment, and betterment of the role of women in the field of dentistry through her achievements in civic, cultural, humanitarian and academic areas.”

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