Dr. Lucy Hobbs Taylor, DDS
Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic
|Lucy Hobbs Taylor. Photo via Kansas Historical Society Kansapedia.|
“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.”
– Dr. Lucy Hobbs Taylor1
Lucy Beaman Hobbs was born on March 14, 1833 in Constable, New York, the seventh of ten children. Her parents’ early deaths forced her to start working as a seamstress to help support her siblings and herself while she was still in school.2
After graduating from Franklin Academy in Malone, New York, Lucy moved to Michigan in 1849 to teach at a local school.3 Even while working as a schoolteacher, she was interested in pursuing medical education. After ten years of teaching, she applied to the Eclectic College of Medicine in Cincinnati4 but was refused admission because of the belief that women were not suitable for the medical profession.5
The rejection did not stop Lucy from pursuing her dream. She began private studies with one of the school’s professors, who recognized her potential in the field of dentistry. Dr. Jonathan Taft, the dean of the Ohio College of Dental Surgery, agreed to take Lucy under his wing and allowed her to work with him in his office. Soon afterward, she was given the opportunity to join Dr. Samuel Wardle, an Ohio College graduate, as an apprentice.4 Lucy later stated that Wardle had “the honor of making it possible for women to enter the profession.”6
In the spring of 1861, Lucy applied to the Ohio College of Dental Surgery but was turned down once again because of her gender. The agony of another rejection made her even more eager to continue in dentistry. Acting on Dr. Wardle’s advice, she opened her own office in a modest building in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, the start of the Civil War ruined her small business and forced her to seek a more favorable location for her office. She was able to reestablish her practice in the hospitable town of Bellevue, Iowa, where her business finally started to take off. After the first year, she could afford to purchase some new equipment for her dental office. Later on, Lucy decided to move to McGregor, Iowa.7 Eventually, Iowans fondly referred to her as the “woman who pulled teeth.”7
The year 1865 was a turning point in Lucy’s career. The Iowa State Dental Society welcomed her as their very first female member and even chose her as their delegate to attend the American Dental Convention meeting in Chicago.4 Iowa’s dentists demanded her admission to dental college and threatened to distance themselves from any institution that denied her admission. The Ohio College of Dental Surgery accepted Lucy to their senior class in November 1865.7 Taking her years of professional experience into consideration, she graduated only a few months later on February 21, 1866. That is how Dr. Lucy Hobbs became the first woman in the US to obtain a doctorate in dentistry.4
Lucy began practicing in Chicago, where she married Civil War veteran James Myrtle Taylor. The couple subsequently said goodbye to their bustling life in Chicago and moved to the tranquil country town of Lawrence, Kansas. James was trained by Lucy and also became a dentist.5 The Taylors opened a shared dental office, which developed into one of the most successful practices in the state. Despite never becoming parents themselves, they focused primarily on the treatment of women and children.4
After James died in 1886, Lucy retired and dedicated the last years of her life to supporting the women’s suffrage movement and other political and social causes. By the end of the nineteenth century, nearly one thousand women had followed Dr. Lucy Hobbs Taylor into the dental profession.4
Dr. Lucy Hobbs Taylor died on October 3, 1910, just two years before the state of Kansas extended voting rights to women.1 Since 1983, the American Association of Women Dentists has presented the prestigious Lucy Hobbs Taylor Award to AAWD members “in recognition of professional excellence and achievements in advancing the role of women in dentistry.”1
- Leonard, Carl. “The First American Woman to Graduate from Dental School Was Born Today in 1833.” Now We Know Em. March 14, 2013. https://nowweknowem.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/the-first-american-woman-to-graduate-from-dental-school-was-born-today-in-1833-now-we-know-em/.
- Prichard, Denise. “Honoring Women in Dentistry: Lucy Hobbs Taylor.” Spear. September 15, 2020. https://speareducation.com/spear-review/2014/03/honoring-women-in-dentistry-lucy-hobbs-taylor.
- Encyclopædia Britannica. “Lucy Hobbs Taylor.” July 20, 1998. Last updated March 10, 2023. https://britannica.com/biography/Lucy-Hobbs-Taylor.
- The Watkins Community Museum of History. “ Lucy Hobbs Taylor, 1833-1910: A Lawrence, Kansas Pioneer in the History of Women in Dentistry.” Last updated May 6, 2009. Archived at: https://web.archive.org/web/20171202053056/http://www.watkinsmuseum.org/archives/taylor.shtml.
- Kansas Historical Society. “Lucy Hobbs Taylor.” Kansapedia. June 2010. Last updated February 2021. https://kshs.org/kansapedia/lucy-hobbs-taylor/15500.
- Albarracin, Laura.“ Lucy Hobbs Taylor Paves Way for Women as First Female Dentist.” ASDA Blog. May 3, 2019. https://www.asdablog.com/lucy-hobbs-taylor-paves-way-for-women-as-first-female-dentist/
- Hyson, John M., Jr., DDS, MS, MA. n.d. “Women Dentists: The Origin.” June 2002, Journal of the California Dental Association. Accessed March 12, 2023. https://web.archive.org/web/20120402130624/http://www.cda.org/library/cda_member/pubs/journal/jour0602/hyson.html.
- Sokolová, Dana. “Ani Mezi Akademiky a Lékaři Nejsou Rovné Příležitosti Pohlaví Samozřejmostí.” cz. March 8, 2023. https://novinky.cz/clanek/zena-styl-ani-mezi-akademiky-a-lekari-nejsou-rovne-prilezitosti-pohlavi-samozrejmosti-40425075#utm_content=ribbonnews&utm_term=mdž&utm_medium=hint&utm_source=search.seznam.cz.
NATALIE HORAKOVA is a fourth-year student of dentistry at Charles University Faculty of Medicine in Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic. She is interested in multiple fields of dentistry, although orthodontics is her favorite. She also instructs the public in dental health.
Submitted for the 2022–23 Medical Student Essay Contest
Spring 2023 | Sections | Women in Medicine