March is Women’s History Month and to honor how far women have come in dentistry and the strides female dentists have made, let’s take a look back at three women who played a pivotal role in fighting for women’s rights and pushing the imposed boundaries set to hold them back.
Lucy Beaman Hobbs Taylor (1833-1910)
In 1866 Lucy Hobbs became the first woman to earn a Doctoral degree in Dental Surgery. In those times, you didn’t need a degree to practice dentistry, and some women were practicing already because schools simply wouldn’t admit women. Hobbs applied to medical and dental schools but was denied entry to all she applied to. So, she started her own practice and established a well-respected reputation in only three short years.
In 1865 the Iowa State Dental Society admitted her as a member of their organization due to her reputation and accomplishments. This inspired the Ohio College of Dental Surgery to accept her as a student, even after four years as a practicing dentist, and she finally had the opportunity to go school and graduate.
After she was married, she taught her husband, James Taylor, the ways of dentistry and together they opened a practice in Lawrence, Kansas.
Isa Gray Nelson Rollins (1867-1953)
Isa Rollins was the first African-American woman to earn a Doctoral degree in Dental Surgery. She worked in the dental office of Jonathan Taft for three years in high school which inspired her to pursue a degree and career in dentistry. Taft was well known for his advocacy for women in dentistry, and in 1890 she received her DDS from the University of Michigan Dental School.
Her story and accomplishments were well publicized, and she became a role model for women. In fact, she inspired one of her own patients, Olive Henderson, to follow in her footsteps and she became the second African-American dentist in Chicago.
Leonie von Zesch (1882-1944)
Leonie von Zesch’s story is full of adventure and almost unbelievable experiences. Her grandfather was a German Count that became a Texas Senator and founded Fredericksburg, Texas, that to this day maintains it’s unique German feel.
In 1902, Zesch graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in San Francisco with a doctorate in Dentistry. Four years later, she survived the well-known San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, but her office was burned in the fire that followed. She eventually decided to leave behind the city life in search of adventure and travels that took her all over the nation.
She was the first of many things throughout her life including becoming the first paid female dentist for the U.S. Army and the first female dentist in Alaska. She even served as a dentist in the Navy disguised as a man until she was discovered and replaced. She treated patients in Arizona, California, Texas and Alaska and some reports say she even treated people on vacation wherever she went. During the 15 years she worked in Alaska, she learned to travel by dog team in the harsh winters to remote locations.
Dr. Ken Collins, DDS, practices dentistry with his wife Dr. Marnie Collins in Spokane, Washington.
“In the early 1970s, only about 3% of dentists in America were women,” Collins said. “The latest research shows that now about 29% of dentists in the U.S. are female. Even with the growing numbers, many challenges still remain for women in dentistry. Many of the same struggles exist as in other professions such as wage gaps and lack of representation in leadership roles. However, thanks to the brave women in history and the female pioneers of modern dentistry, equality is closer than ever.”
Or office in Spokane is located at:
3151 E. 28th Ave.
Spokane, WA 99223
Office phone # 509-368-7788