By Jenifer Dorsey
Lucy Hobbs Taylor, born Lucy Beaman Hobbs, was the first American woman to earn a degree in dentistry. It’s fitting that her birthday, March 14, falls during National Women’s History Month. A true pioneering sprit, Hobbs not only broke professional gender barriers but also later dedicated herself to the women’s suffrage movement. She would be 181 years old today.
In 1833, Hobbs was born in New York’s Franklin County. There, she was raised and eventually studied to become a schoolteacher. From 1849 through 1859, she taught in Brooklyn, Mich., before deciding to pursue a career in medicine.
Despite being denied admission to both the Eclectic College of Medicine in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Ohio College of Dental Surgery based on her gender, Hobbs persisted and aligned herself with others who supported her ambition. A professor from the Eclectic College of Medicine taught her privately and encouraged her to pursue a career in dentistry. She then studied and apprenticed under Dr. Samuel Wardle, a recent graduate of the Ohio College of Dental Surgery. In 1861, she opened her own Cincinnati-based dental practice.
Hobbs went on to practice dentistry in Iowa from 1862 through 1865 and was elected to the Iowa State Dental Society. In Nov. 1965 the Ohio College of Dental Surgery accepted her into its senior class, and she officially completed her degree in Feb. 1866.
The following year, Hobbs married James M. Taylor, a Civil War veteran. She taught him dentistry, and together, they opened a practice in Lawrence, Kan. It was considered one of the most successful dental practices in the state. James died in 1886, at which point Lucy retired and devoted her life to charity and social causes.
Today, her legacy lives on in many ways, including the American Association of Women Dentists’ Lucy Hobbs Taylor Award, which is the association’s highest honor, and Benco Dental’s The Lucy Hobbs Project, which is a nationwide program that gives voice to women in dentistry.
Encyclopedia Britannica. (2013, November 6). Lucy Hobbs Taylor (American Dentist). Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/584866/Lucy-Hobbs-Taylor.
The Lucy Hobbs Project by Benco Dental (n.d.). Lucy Hobbs Taylor. Retrieved from http://thelucyhobbsproject.com/about-us/lucy-hobbs-taylor/.
Kansaspedia. (2013, January). Lucy Hobbs Taylor. Kansas Historical Society. Retrieved from http://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/lucy-hobbs-taylor/15500.