In honor of Women’s History Month and her birthday, we’re highlighting Lucy Hobbs Taylor for her contributions to the dental profession. Lucy Hobbs Taylor was the first woman in history to receive her doctorate in dentistry.
Originally denied access to two of the most prestigious dental schools in the nation, Hobbs went on to prove herself as one of the most successful and well-respected dentists of her time and throughout history.
Lucy Hobbs Taylor was born Lucy Beaman Hobbs on March 14, 1833 in Constable, N.Y., and was the seventh child of 10. She was forced to grow up quickly when both of her parents passed away when she was 12 and supported her siblings by working as a seamstress.
Always having a thirst for knowledge, Hobbs found herself spending much her time at school and eventually moved to Michigan in 1849 to be a schoolteacher after graduating from the Franklin Academy in Malone, N.Y.
However, after 10 years of teaching, Hobbs became restless with her profession and became fascinated with the study of medicine which prompted her to apply to the Eclectic College of Medicine in Cincinnati. She was rejected because of common thought that a woman’s place was not in the medical profession. Instead she studied privately under the supervision of one the school’s teachers who discovered that she had a knack for dentistry.
With her career now going in the direction of dentistry, Hobbs studied under the dean of Ohio College of Dental Surgery and ended up apprenticing herself to a practicing graduate of the school, Dr. Samuel Wardle. When she applied to dental school, she was denied again since she was a female and in response she opened up her own practice in 1861.
Hobbs became a successful dentist fairly quickly and moved her practice to Iowa in 1862 where she became a member of the Iowa State Dental Society. Due to her sterling reputation as a dentist and since the Ohio College of Dentistry now allowed women to enroll in the school, Hobbs was able to obtain her doctorate in dentistry making her the first woman in the world to ever do so.
Over the next few years, Hobbs moved her practice to Chicago where she met her husband, James Myrtle Taylor, a Civil War veteran. After showing him the ropes in the profession, the two of them eventually settled in Lawrence, Kan. where they created one of the most successful practices in the state.
Taylor chose to retire following the death of her husband in 1886 and spent her hiatus doing charitable work and promoting women’s rights.
In 1895, Hobbs reopened her practice and continued to treat patients until her death in 1910. Due to her profound impact on dentistry and women’s history, the American Association of Women Dentists honors exceptional female dentists each year with the Lucy Hobbs Taylor Award.