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Sindecuse Museum

Jennie Kollock Hilton

Jennie Kollock Hilton

Jennie Kollock Hilton (1851-1912)
DDS 1881 University of Michigan

Jennie Kollock Hilton was the first American woman to graduate from the University of Michigan’s dental program, in 1881. Hilton frequently defended women’s choice to become dentists. Photo from the collection of the Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry, University of Michigan SMD 292.1881

Equal Rights

Like many professional women of her day, Hilton had a larger agenda beyond her career. She and her sister, Florence Kollock, a minister, promoted equal rights for women and worked actively for women’s suffrage.

My parents, more especially mother, were particularly liberal in their ideas as regards their daughters, and considered each one should have a career…we girls climbed trees, ran races, played games with our brothers, and were never checked because we were girls. My eldest sister is a physician, another is a dentist [Hilton], one brother is a lawyer, another is also a dentist.

Florence Kollock, Hilton’s sister, 1892.

Jennie Kollock Hilton's response to W.R. Spencer

"Women Dentists" by W.R. Spencer

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"Women Unsuitable for Dentistry"
In December 1889, Items of Interest published an article by W.R. Spencer decrying women as dentists or in any profession. He also complained that since women worked for lower wages than men, they were unfair competition. His final barb: professional women “must result in moral depravity.”

No Pushover
In a tart response to W.R. Spencer’s attack on women dentists she said, “Let us cover him with a mantle of charity; a very small one will suffice…if his effort to belittle woman should prove his death, our earnest prayer shall be that when he is “filling his last cavity,” it may be written on his tombstone, Here lies the last obstructionist to woman dentists.

Left: “Women Dentists,” by W.R. Spencer, Items of Interest, Dec. 1889, courtesy of Taubman Health Sciences Library, University of Michigan.