When looking for a dentist today, you have a long list of male and female dentists to choose from. But before Lucy Beaman Hobbs, dentists were primarily men. Hobbs was the very first licensed female dentist. In other words, she was the first woman to earn the title of Doctor of Dental Surgery, doing so in 1866. It is safe to say that Dr. Hobbs paved the way for many other women to enter the field.
Hobbs Was Interested in Medicine
Hobbs was born on March 14, 1833, in New York. In 1849, she moved to Michigan and taught there for 10 years. While Hobbs was teaching in Brooklyn, Michigan, she boarded with a physician. This led to an interest in medicine. That physician encouraged Hobbs to pursue medicine. So she moved to Cincinnati in hopes of attending Eclectic Medical College. But the college would not accept her because she was a woman. Instead, they suggested she consider dentistry.
An Untraditional Path to a Degree
By today’s standards, Hobbs’ path to a dental degree was incredibly unusual. The Ohio College of Dental Surgery’s dean, Jonathan Taft, said Hobbs was welcome. He even let her learn in his office until another faculty member would teach her. But that day never came.
So Hobbs opened an office of her own in 1861. This was surprisingly common at the time, as it was rare for dentists to have degrees. (This differs sharply from the years of education dentists like Dr. Dhiraj Sharma need to practice today.) Hobbs began practicing in Iowa. Within three years, she had developed a strong reputation, and her dental office was profitable.
Becoming an Iowa State Dental Society Member
Following the success of her practice, the Iowa State Dental Society let Hobbs become a member in 1865. At the time, the group said, “The profession has nothing in its pursuits foreign to the instincts of women.”
Getting Her Degree
In addition to admitting Hobbs to the organization, the Iowa State Dental Society convinced the Ohio College of Dental Surgery to let Hobbs attend as a student. The College recognized her successful years of practice. As such, they only made her attend a single session. She then graduated in 1866, being the first woman to become a licensed dentist.
After Getting Her Degree
Eventually, Hobbs began a dental practice in Chicago. While there, she married James M. Taylor, a Civil War veteran who was a railroad car painter at the time. Hobbs taught her husband dentistry. Then the two moved to Kansas, creating a practice in Lawrence.
After her husband died in 1886, Hobbs practiced intermittently. She also regularly participated in campaigning for women’s rights. Hobbs reopened the practice in 1895. She died in 1910, at which time she was still practicing dentistry.
Lucy Hobbs was the first licensed female dentist and faced numerous obstacles on her path to do so. She paved the way for other female dentists and helped open the field to women.
You can learn more about current dental procedures and general dentists in Lincoln Park by contacting our practice today!