Skip to main content
Toggle Menu of ADA WebSites
ADA Websites
Partnerships and Commissions
Toggle Search Area
Toggle Menu
e-mail Print Share

Trailblazers in dentistry

April 15, 2019 Today's growing number of women pursuing a career in dentistry can be traced back to 1861 when 28-year-old Lucy Beaman Hobbs opened a dental practice in Cincinnati. She had been denied to study at the Ohio College of Dental Surgery because of her gender but managed to convince the college dean to tutor her privately.

Photo of Dr. Hobbs
First: In 1866, Dr. Lucy Hobbs became the first woman to earn her doctorate in dentistry.
A year later, Dr. Hobbs moved her dental practice to Iowa where she became a member of the Iowa State Dental Society. The dental society helped her get accepted as member of the Ohio College of Dental Surgery's senior class in 1865. On February 1866, Dr. Hobbs would become the first woman to earn her doctorate in dentistry.

About 158 years later, there has been a lot of firsts for women dentists:

In 1890, Dr. Ida Gray became the first African-American woman to earn a dental degree.

Dr. Emma Eames Chase of St. Louis is identified as the first female member of the ADA because her full name appears in the rolls in 1890. It's possible other women came before her, however, the ADA in the 19th century only published initials instead of full first names.

In 1917, Dr. Maude M. Tanner became the first female delegate to the ADA House of Delegates.

In 1951, Dr. Helen Myers became the first woman commissioned in the U.S. Army Dental Corps.

In 1975, Dr. Jeanne Sinkford was appointed dean of Howard University's College of Dentistry, becoming the first female dean of a dental school.

In 1991, Dr. Geraldine Morrow became the first woman president of the ADA.

Before Dr. Hobbs, the first woman recognized today to be the first to own a dental practice is Emeline Roberts Jones, whose husband begrudgingly allowed her to practice with him in 1855.

According to the American Association of Women Dentists, before the 1970s, dentistry was almost exclusively a male profession. The U.S. had the lowest percentage of women dentists in the Western World. For example, according to the AAWD, roughly half of the dentists in Greece were women; about one-third in France, Denmark, Sweden and Norway; and four-fifths in Russia, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania.

In 2003, women made up 17.3% of active private dental practitioners in the U.S. Today, about 32% of active practicing dentists are women. That percentage will only continue to grow as more women pursue dentistry.