The dental world has seen many changes. Key among those changes is women making great strides towards improving the function of dentistry. Women have contributed greatly to Furthering research, providing outstanding services, and facing all obstacles head-on.
Did you know only 1.1% of dental students were female in 1968? That number dramatically increased to 47.7% in 2014. To celebrate women’s month we take a moment to remember and honor women who have made a positive impact on dentistry around the world.
Clara was a huge advocate for women’s voting rights, so it’s not surprising she became one of the first female dentists in the late 1800s. She became one of the first known female dentists. Clara graduated from the University of Michigan in 1885 and after opening her practice, became the Vice President of the Michigan State Dental Society.
She then moved to Washington, DC, her practice solely focused on women and children, using her gender as a professional advantage to be nurturing and understanding. in 1889, she became the delegate to the International Dental Congress in Paris. A few years later in 1893, she became heavily involved in the World’s Columbian Dental Congress in Chicago, Illinois. While dentistry was her passion, she also lobbied for female physicians and female staff in women’s prisons.
Vida Annette Latham firmly believed dentistry was the same as medicine and it deserved the same foundation as anatomy, histology, embryology, and physiology instead of focusing on the mechanical side of it. With this motivation earned a medical degree in addition to her dental degree.
She taught at several hospitals in Chicago and ran a dental practice in Rogers Park, Illinois, keeping meticulous details on her patients, treatments, and fees.
In 1890, Ida Gray Nelson Rollins graduated from the University of Michigan College of Dentistry. She was one of just three women in her graduating class and was the very first African-American woman dentist in the United States.
As excited about civil and women’s rights as she was about dentistry, Dr Gray became vice president of the Professional Women’s Club of Chicago and the Eighth Regiment Ladies’ Auxiliary. These groups worked hard to grow and maintain the rights of women of color in their professional endeavours.
Leonie led an adventurous life and career. She practised dentistry all over the country, including Texas, Arizona, California, and Alaska. She had many “firsts” in her dental career:
- She became the first paid female dentist for the U.S. Army.
- She became Alaska’s first female dentist in 1915 (she travelled by a dog team in the winter to get to her patients!).
Along with her firsts, Leonie also:
- Served as a dentist for the Navy by disguising herself as male (she eventually got caught and was replaced by a male dentist).
- Took a dentist position in a female prison called California Institution for Women at Tehachapi. Her best dental assistant had been convicted of murder.
Leonie led an active lifestyle in her dental career. She even said, “I gave the profession youth, health, energy, enthusiasm, adequate training, a lifelong devotion, and an unquenchable zest for living.”
Jeanne’s record is quite impressive. Not only did she overcome many race and gender barriers to become the best in dentistry, but she was the first woman to be Dean at a dental school.
She wore many hats to advance the field of dentistry, including:
- Actively recruiting women and minority students to the dental profession.
- Serving on many national counsels, such as National Institutes of Health, National Academy of Sciences, and much more.
- Became the chair of the Department of Prosthodontics.
Even being so busy with her medical career, Jeanne managed a perfect balance between her career and life.
We celebrate women’s history month
We recognize these powerful women among many other past and present that keep changing our world for the better. We are happy to support our amazing women around the world.