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Sindecuse Museum

Timeline: Women Dentists

Take a glimpse at the substantial way women impacted the practice of dentistry.

Click the images to view larger, click names to read more about each dentist.

You can also view an interactive version and leave comments on the Timetoast website. [Note: The timeline displays best when using an up-to-date web browser and the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.]

Lucy Beaman Hobbs Taylor, 1833-1910

Lucy Beaman Hobbs Taylor


Hobbs was determined to enter a profession where she could use her brain. The Ohio College of Dentistry refused to admit her but the dean, Jonathan Taft, taught her in his own office. Hobbs opened her own practice in Iowa. By 1865 the Iowa State Dental Society pressured the Ohio College to admit her as a student. In recognition of her years of practice the college only required her to attend one session before awarding her a DDS. Photo courtesy of Kansas State Historical Society.

Emeline Roberts Jones, 1836-1916.

Emeline Roberts Jones


Jones wanted to learn dentistry, but the newly formed dental colleges did not admit women. She studied anatomy and other subjects and practiced fillings and extractions on discarded teeth. Eventually her husband allowed her to join his dental practice in 1855. She was nationally recognized as the first woman dentist at the 1893 World’s Columbian Dental Congress. Photo courtesy of The New Haven Museum and Historical Society.

Jennie Kollock Hilton, 1851-1912.

Jennie Kollock Hilton


Hilton was the first American woman to graduate from the University of Michigan’s dental program. Like many women of her day, Hilton had a larger agenda beyond her career. She and her sister, Florence Kollock, promoted equal rights for women and worked actively for women’s suffrage. Photo from the collection of the Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry, SMD 292.1881.

Clara Walworth MacNaughton, 1854-1948.

Clara Walworth MacNaughton


MacNaughton began a dental career to support her family after her husband died. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 1885, and within four years she was vice president of the Michigan State Dental Society. MacNaughton became active in the women's rights movement, and moved to Washington, D.C. where she campaigned for Suffrage and continued her practice. Thirty years later, the 19th Amendment was ratified and MacNaughton continued to advocate for women's rights. Photo from the collection of the Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry, SMD 292.1885.

Ida Gray Nelson, first African American woman dentist, 1866-1953.

Ida Gray Nelson, first African American woman dentist


Nelson graduated from the University of Michigan dental program during a time when few dental schools accepted minority candidates. As a high school student, Nelson worked in the dental office of Jonathan Taft in Cincinnati, Ohio. Taft, Dean of the University of Michigan’s dental school, encouraged her to apply to the program. She earned exemplary marks and opened her own practice in Chicago where she was a mentor and role-model for her patients. Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library.

Vida Latham, 1892

Vida Latham


Latham was born in England and moved to the United States to earn study dentistry at the University of Michigan. She believed that dentistal training should include more medical training rather than just focusing on mechanical skill. She went on to earn an MD Northwestern University Women's Medical School in 1895. She taught at several Chicago hospitals, wrote about techniques, and promoted women in the medical and dental fields. Photo from the collection of the Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry. SMD 292.1892.

Carrie Marsden Stewart, 1871-1947.

Carrie Marsden Stewart


In 1894, the University of Michigan established the first dental graduate (post-DDS) degree program, and Stewart was its first graduate. She earned her DDS at the University of Michigan in 1892, and spent the next year pursuing advanced work in biology, bacteriology, and physiology, and performing clinical work. In 1894, she was awarded a DDSc (Doctor of Dental Science) degree. Photo courtesy of the family of Carrie Marsden Stewart.

Jessie Castle La Moreaux, 1866-1954.

Jessie Castle La Moreaux


Castle La Moreaux was the only woman in her 1896 graduating class at the University of Michigan College of Dental Surgery. Her first practice was at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan. In 1897, she moved to Dallas and became the first women dentist to practice in Texas. Photo courtesy of Rockwall County Historical Foundation.

M. Evangeline Jordon, 1865-1952.

M. Evangeline Jordon


Jordon was a pioneer in Pedodontics, the care and treatment of children’s teeth. She introduced techniques to help reduce children’s fear of the dentist, although some, like holding her hand over a child’s mouth until the child stopped screaming, would never be used today. She promoted the positive effect a good diet has on children’s teeth. Jordon went on to become the first president of the Federation of Women Dentists in 1921. Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.

Leonie von Zesch, 1882-1944.

Leonie von Zesch


Von Zesch earned a DDS from the San Francisco College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1902. She began as a dentist's assistant, but her courageous spirit lead to a variety of adventures. She treated earthquake refugees and Naval seaman, traveled by dog sled to treat patients in Alaska, and worked at a women's prison training inmates to work as her dental assistants.  Photo courtesy Jane G. Troutman Family Trust.

Daisy McGuire, 1880-1980.

Daisy McGuire


McGuire grew up helping her dentist father with patients, pulling her first tooth at age six. She travelled by horse and buggy, staying in homes while treating the families. She vulcanized dentures on their stoves or in their fireplaces. When the North Caroline State Board of Dental Examiners told McGuire she must go to school or quit dentistry, she enrolled in Southern Dental College and graduated with honors. Photo courtesy of the family of Daisy Z. McGuire.

Grace Rogers Spalding

Grace Rogers Spalding


Grace Rogers Spalding graduated from the University of Michigan in 1904. She founded the American Academy of Periodontology with Gillette Hayden, a 1902 graduate of the Ohio Medical College. Hayden served as its first female president in 1916. Both were early proponents of preventative dentistry. They also believed that periodontology, the care and treatment gums, is as important as caring for the teeth. Photo courtesy of the American Academy of Periodontology.

Faith Sai So Leong, 1884-1929.

Faith Sai So Leong


Leong was a Chinese immigrant who was adopted by an English teacher in San Francisco. She was educated, dexterous, and mechanically minded, so a cousin encouraged her to pursue dentistry. At the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Leong was the only woman in her class. She practiced in San Francisco’s Chinese-American community. Photo courtesy of Edwin Owyang, MD, and Eric Owyang, PharmD.

Vada Watson Somerville, 1885-1972.

Vada Watson Somerville


Watson married John Somerville, who encouraged her to become a dentist and she became the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Southern California School of Dentistry. They practiced together for 10 years until problems arose when many patients preferred her over him. She eventually left the practice to work towards improving Civil Rights in Los Angeles. She and her husband formed the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP. Vada Watson Somerville graduation photo, 1918.

Sara Gdulin Krout, 1898-1989.

Sara Gdulin Krout


The first woman dentist in the US Navy was not from the United States. Krout earned a DDS in Latvia, before moving to Chicago and earning another DDS from the University of Illinois College of Dentistry in 1924. She circumvented the military’s restrictions on women dentists by joining the US Navy Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services (WAVES) as a lieutenant. Photo courtesy of Cliff Tabin.

Helen E. Myers, 1912-1962.

Helen E. Myers


Myers earned her DDS from Temple University. When Congress passed the Army Female Medical Department Act in 1949, and Myers became the first woman commissioned by the US Army Dental Crops. She provided dental services to Army troops in Italy and Japan. Photo courtesy of the National Archives, 11-SC-362058.

Jane Slocum Hayward, 1919-2011.

Jane Slocum Hayward


Jane Slocum chose dentistry after helping her father in his dental office. When she married James Rogers Hayward while studying at the University of Michigan, they merged two families that included five generations of dentists dating back to 1890 on the Slocum side. Two of their children chose to work in dentistry, one as a dental hygienist. She graduated a year before he did, and worked as a clinical instructor in the school. Photo from the collection of the Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry, SMD 34.78.

Jeanne C. Sinkford, 1933- .

Jeanne C. Sinkford


Sinkford graduated at the top of her class from Howard University, earning a DDS in 1958. She taught at Howard and practiced part time, before moving to Chicago and earning an MS and PhD from Northwestern University. She later returned to Howard Univeristy, and was evenutally promoted to professor and associate professor. Ultimately she was appointed dean, making her the first female dean of any dental program. Photo courtesy Jeanne C. Sinkford, DDS.

Sharon Brooks, 1944-.

Sharon Brooks


Brooks earned her DDS, and then went on to earn an MS in Oral Diagnosis/Radiology in 1976, an MS in environmental and Industrial Health in 1984, and an MS in Clinical Research and Design and Statistical Analysis in 1989, all from the University of Michigan. Brooks’ interest in diagnosis led her to oral radiology, and she became an internationally known expert in Cone Beam Computer Tomography (CBCT). Photo courtesy of Sharon Brooks & UMSD.

Marilyn Woolfolk 1949-.

Marilyn Woolfolk


Woolfolk earned a MS in Microbiology in 1972, a DDS in 1978, and a Masters of Public Health in 1982. In the 1990s she served as U-M School of Dentistry Director of Student Affairs and then Assistant Dean for Student Services. She particularly enjoyed mentoring students and was the first African American woman to become a full professor at the U-M dental school in 2002. Photo courtesy of Marilyn Woolfolk & The University of Michigan.

Rear Admiral Elaine C. Wagner, 1958-.

Rear Admiral Elaine C. Wagner


Wagner earned her DDS from the University of Indiana and specialized in pediatric dentistry before joining the Marine Corps in 1983. She spent 7 years practicing in California and went on to holder leadership positions in the Phillipines, Japan, Washington D.C., Maryland, Kuwait and New Hampshire. In 2010, she was appointed chief of the Navy Dental Corps, its highest position. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy.

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