Tuesday, March 14, 2017

SRPS Women in STEM: Lucy Hobbs Taylor

Lucy Hobbs Taylor - Pioneering Dentist
(March 14, 1833 – October 3, 1910)

In 1866, Lucy Hobbs Taylor graduated from the Ohio College of Dental Surgery, making her the first American woman to graduate to earn a Dental degree. She went on to become one of the most prominent dentists in the state of Kansas, and was a role model for women looking to enter the field of dentistry.



Born in New York, she grew up determined "to enter a profession where she could earn her bread not alone by the sweat of her brow, but by the use of her brains also." As a young woman, she took a teaching position in a frontier town in Michigan, where she boarded with a physician whose work led her to consider a career in medicine. In fact, he encouraged her to move to Cincinnati to attend the Eclectic Medical College. Unfortunately, they weren't accepting female students, but they kindly suggested she consider dentistry.

She applied to the the Ohio College of Dental Surgery, but they also barred women. Instead, she took private lessons from one of the school's professors, and in 1961 was proficient enough to open her own practice without a degree, a common practice at the time. Four years later, recognizing her growing professional reputation, signaled by being accepted into the Iowa State Dental Society, they reconsidered and allowed her to enroll as a senior. When she graduated the following year, 1866, she became the first woman to earn a doctorate in dentistry.

She married in 1867 and convinced her husband to also become a dentist. They moved to Kansas, where they created one of the most successful dental practices in the state. They worked together until his death, after which Lucy took some time off to work for women's rights, but in 1895 she reopened her practice.

Because of Dr. Taylor's pioneering example, by 1900 almost one thousand women had gone into dentistry. She was a highly revered in her community and among her professional peers. Upon her death, the Lawrence Daily Journal wrote, "Dr. Lucy Taylor was one of the most striking figures in Lawrence, she occupied a position of honor and ability, for years she occupied a place high in the ranks of her profession. Dr. Taylor was a great charitable worker and did much good in a quiet, unobtrusive manner."

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