We all know everybody’s favorite huckleberry Doc Holliday was a dentist, but it was a baby girl, born Lucy Beaman Hobbs on March 14, 1833, in Constable, New York, who changed dental history.
At a time when a woman’s chief role was that of wife/mother/homemaker, Lucy’s only other choices were schoolmarm or nurse, proper but “spinsterish” occupations. But even as a little girl, Lucy Beaman Hobbs longed for the unexpected.
However, she caved a little bit, spending ten years in a
she always held tight to her dream of pursuing medical science. Michigan
Solely on the basis of her gender, the Eclectic College of Medicine in
rejected her in 1859. Nevertheless, one
of the school’s professors gave her private lessons, and at his suggestion, she
turned her interest to dentistry. Cincinnati, Ohio
Again due to her gender, she could only pursue her dental studies as a private pupil. Fortunately, the dean of the Ohio College of Dental Surgery also took her under his wing. Later, she apprenticed herself to a graduate of the school. Again denied admission to the dental college --because of her gender -- she started her own practice in
in the spring of 1861 when she was
She later moved her practice to
(1862) and thence to Bellevue, Iowa (1862-1865). In time, she
came to be known by what sounds a bit like a Native American soubriquet:
"the woman who pulls teeth." McGregor,
Interestingly, the Iowa State Dental Society accepted Lucy as a member in July 1865. Affirming that she had proven herself a worthy equal to male colleagues, the Society sent her as a delegate to the American Dental Association convention in
that year. In November 1865, four years into her own dental practice, she was at
last admitted to the senior class of the Ohio College of Dental Surgery. Chicago
Due to her expertise as well as support from a small but devoted group of admirers, she earned her degree only a few months later, on
February 21, 1866. Thus Lucy
Hobbs became the first woman in the –and likely the world-- to
earn a doctorate in dentistry. U.S.
While practicing in
met Civil War veteran James M. Taylor, and married the railway maintenance
worker in April 1867. Under his wife's guidance, James too became a dentist. Chicago
Late in 1867, the Doctors Taylor moved to the western town of
, Lawrence , where they soon built
a successful practice, focusing on women and children. Most patients referred
to the highly-regarded dentist as “Dr Lucy.” After James’ death in 1886, she
retired from most of her professional duties. However, she remained active in
civic and political causes, most importantly the woman's suffrage movement. Kansas
Peers and citizens alike hailed her as a pioneer in opening the doors for more women in dentistry. By 1900, almost one thousand women were taking part in the profession.
During her career in
Dr. Taylor wrote, "I am a New Yorker by birth, but I love my adopted
country -- the West. To it belongs the credit of making it possible for women
to be recognized in the dental profession on equal terms with men." Kansas
This courageous, determined woman died in
on Lawrence October 3, 1910 at the age of 77. In her
obituary, she was recognized as "one of the most striking figures of
Lawrence [who] occupied a position of honor and ability, and for years she
occupied a place high in the ranks of her profession."
Coming soon: Book Five, Hearts Crossing Ranch series~Soul Food