Women in dentistry
A summary view of the early history of women in dentistry
Our timeline begins in 1895 with Lilian Lindsay becoming the first woman to qualify as a dentist in the UK and shows the steady increase of women in the profession.
By 2020 it is predicted that over 50% of all dentists in the UK will be women.
Women and dentistry 1914
"The practice of the woman dentist of the near future will be confined to dealing with patients of her own sex and children."
A piece published in the April 15th, 1914 issue of the British Dental Journal discusses the place of women in the dental profession. Originally published in the
Daily News it is the opinion of the then Secretary and Warden of the
London School of Medicine for Women, Miss Louie M Brooks.
It bemoans the lack of middle class woman entrants into the profession and encourages more to consider it.
The complete piece can be read here.
Lilian Lindsay and the RSM
Dental Historian for July 2014 contains an article about Lilian Lindsay and her RSM connection:
Lilian Lindsay was the first lady member of the Odontology Section of the RSM, joining it in 1925 and became its first woman president in 1945.
Lilian Lindsay first BDA female member
The Scottish Branch of the BDA notified the Representative Board of the election of the first female member of their branch at the meeting of the Rep Board in November 1895. The branch presumed that they had acted correctly and the BDA confirmed that each branch had the right to elect members and confirmed this with legal advice. The Association’s solicitors commented:
The Interpretation Act of 1889 provides that in every Act passed after the year 1850, words importing the masculine gender shall include females, unless the contrary appears. Therefore under the bylaws of the BDA ladies are not either expressly or by implication disqualified for membership, and the rule of construction above quoted may therefore be held to apply to these bylaws.
The minutes then record the President and Board welcoming Lilian Murray nee Lindsay as the first lady member of the British Dental Association and to place the legality of her election on record. Further female members were slow to follow as English dental schools were not accepting women applicants at this point.
It was not until 1912 that
Lily Fanny Pain became the first women to qualify LDS Eng.
Attitudes to female dentists
The July 2014 issue of
Dental History Magazine also contains an article about initial attitudes to female dentists:
The author concentrates mainly on Scotland and mentions that the first Scots woman to qualify as a dentist was Miss Williemina Simmers who received her LDS from Glasgow in 1901.
Read more about this in the author's PhD thesis from 1994.
Dental Historian and women in dentistry
Dental Historian contains a number of articles focusing on women and their place in dentistry:
Lilian's Ladies: a global perspective Part 1 (the role of America, North and South, in educating the first female dentists) by Melanie Parker.
Dental Historian 2013; 57: 17-25
Lilian's Ladies: a global perspective Part 2 (the role of countries outside of America as well as the links between the USA and the first qualified British women dentists) by Melanie Parker.
Dental Historian 2013; 58: 20-30
Lilian Lindsay (1871-1960): the quest for an English Heritage blue plaque by Rachel Bairsto and Stanley Gelbier.
Dental Historian 2013; 58: 12-19
Document supply (photocopy) services page for information on obtaining articles.
First Canadian female dentist
Dr Josephine Wells was the first woman to qualify in Canada
Pioneers from the USA
Emeline Robert Jones
"The first woman to establish herself in a regular dental practice in the United States was Emeline Roberts Jones of Connecticut. In 1854, at age 17, she married a dentist, Daniel Albion Jones, and became "intensely interested" in his work. After watching her husband work, she began filling extracted teeth. She filled a two-quart jar with her work and then showed her husband what she had done. Reluctantly, in May 1855, he agreed to allow her to practice with him in his Danielsonville office. Finally, in 1859, he took her in as his partner. She enjoyed a reputation as "a skillful dentist"...she was the first woman to open her own office independently and offer her services to the public "as a competent dentist."
(Hyson Jr, JM.
Women dentists: the origins.
CDA Journal 2002; 30 (6): 444-54)
Lucy Beaman Hobbs Taylor
"People were amazed when they learned that a young girl had so far forgotten her womanhood as to want to study dentistry" (Lucy Beaman Hobbs, 1884)
Lucy Beaman Hobbs was the first woman in the world to graduate from a recognized dental school or college.
Born in New York State on March 14 1833, and orphaned at the age of twelve, she worked as a seamstress for ten years before embarking upon her dental career.
Graduating in February 1866, she was the first woman to receive the DDS degree.
Women prosthodontists from the USA
The July 2017 issue of the Journal of Prosthodontics has an article on women in prosthodontics
Book in focus
A short history of dentistry
Bale, Sons and Danielsson, 1933
William Clowes (1569-1604), who was successor to Vicary as surgeon to Elizabeth, was vigorous in his denunciation of quacks, calling tooth-drawers "stinking weeds". (p.41)
A short history of dentistry charts a fascinating journey from ancient Babylonia to the development of the profession in the Victorian era and early part of the twentieth-century (the book was written in 1933).
Lilian Lindsay was fascinated by the colourful and sometimes gruesome past of her chosen profession, from the widespread myth of the toothworm, to travelling toothdrawers and the growth of scientific methods. Although she does not document her own place in dental history, Lilian Lindsay’s book covers thousands of years worth of interesting facts in a concise and readable style.
This book is
available to borrow from the BDA library on a four-week loan.
If you would like to know more about Lilian Lindsay you can read
Books about women in dentistry
Have a look at the book list and if you would like to borrow anything please