March is Women’s History Month

There was a time when women were not permitted to study or practice dentistry and dental education was provided only to men. In March, as we celebrate Women’s History Month, we’d like to celebrate a few of those women pioneers, courageous and dedicated, who overcame the obstacles of their time and paved the way for the gifted ladies practicing dentistry today and whose distinguished careers are an inspiration.

Lucie Hobbs Taylor , 1883-1910, was the first American woman to earn a Doctorate of Dental Surgery degree. She was a teacher in Michigan when her interest in medicine was sparked. She moved to Ohio to study, but was refused admission to medical school. It was suggested that she try dentistry instead. She was refused admission to dental college because she was a woman, and in 1861, set up her own dental practice, as was common at the time. After three years in practice, her reputation was excellent, she was a member of the Iowa State Dental Society and a delegate to the American Dental Association convention. In November 1865, she was finally admitted to the senior class at Ohio College of Dental Surgery. She was required to attend one session and graduated and was awarded her degree from the college in 1866.  Today, female students make up 50% of the dental students in the US.

Annie Elizabeth Delany , 1891 – 1995, was the first African-American Dentist in the USA and the World! She was the only African-American woman, out of 170 students in the 1919 entering class of the Columbia School of Dental and Oral Surgery. She earned her Doctorate of Dental Surgery degree in 1923 and was the second African-American female dentist licensed to practice dentistry in NY state, where she joined her brother in his dental practice in Harlem. “Bessie” provided dental treatment to many of the poor and was a proponent of education for women and the female civil rights movement. She and her sister, Sadie Delany, published a New York Times best-selling book on oral history entitled “Having Our Say”, which was published when she was 101! The daughter of a slave, she remained humble her entire life, and passed away at the age of 104.

Marian Spore Bush , 1878 – 1946, was a graduate of the University of Michigan College of Dentistry in 1899. She was considered progressive during her tenure as a practicing dentist and fabricated inlays, crowns, and bridgework in her own laboratory and also explored the field of periodontics.   In 1919, Marian gave up her dental practice, taught herself to paint, and eventually moved to Greenwich Village, NYC, where her work was presented in the finest galleries.  Stating that the inspiration for her works came from the grave through channeling from her deceased mother, she won the attention of Harry Houdini, who was one of her greatest fans.

Lilian Lindsay , 1871-1960, was a woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer. When no medical or dental school in England would accept her – the Dean of the National Dental School in Great Portland Street, so as not to distract the male students, interviewed her on the street before her application to attend was rejected – she left England for Scotland and was reluctantly accepted at Edinburgh Dental Hospital and School. She graduated with honors in 1895, later married fellow dentist Robert Lindsay, and together, founded the British Dental Association. Lilian was the first female to become a member of the BDA, served as secretary and librarian , and was voted its first female president in 1946. Lilian love dentistry, and was sub-editor for the British Dental Journal for over 20 years, where she published 57 papers and eventually a book on the history of dentistry.  Geraldine Morrow of the United States, made history in 1991 by becoming the first female president of the America Dental Association.

Badri Teymourtash, 1911-1989, is considered to be the first female Iranian dentist. Born into an influential political family, she was sent to Belgium to study dentistry. After graduation, she returned to Iran to her brother and his family, where they became political prisoners and endured eight years of house arrest and exile. In 1941, she was released and pursued her dental career. Badri was a humanitarian whose efforts provided oral health awareness and treatment to the poor.