Lucy Hobbs Taylor
Douglas County Dentists and American Association of Women Dentists
A childhood dream became a dramatic reality for Lucy Hobbs Taylor. Born in 1833 in Ellenburg Town, N.Y., young Lucy set her sights on becoming a doctor. Medical schools at the time would not allow women to enroll. A determined Lucy soon turned her ambitions towards dentistry. Lucy, or “Dr. Lucy” as she was referred to by her patients, was the first licensed woman dentist to practice in Kansas.
Finding a dentist in Ohio to train her, Lucy learned the skills of pulling teeth and making dentures. When she tried to enter a dental school, she was once again refused admittance because she was a woman. Feeling confident in her dental skills, Taylor moved to Iowa and worked with other dentists. The doctors liked her work so much that they persuaded the American Dentists Association to allow her and other women to attend dental school.
She became known as “the woman who pulls teeth.” At last her fortitude and valor began to pay off. In 1865 she was formally invited to attend the Fourth Annual Meeting of the Iowa State Dental Society in Dubuque. In an unprecedented act, the Iowa State Dental Society amended its Constitution and Bylaws so that a woman could be admitted into full membership. She enrolled in The Ohio College of Dentistry and on Feb. 21, 1866, she became the first woman in the world to be awarded the Doctor of Dental Surgery degree. The faculty in a burst of long delayed effusive praise stated that Lucy “was indeed a superior student and a great credit to her chosen profession.” Returning to Iowa, she read a paper before the Iowa State Dental Society entitled “The Use of the Mallet.” She had now added another first to her illustrious career she was the first woman in the history of dentistry in the United States to address and present a scientific paper to a dental society.
After graduation, she moved to Chicago and opened an office. She fell in love with one of her patients, a Civil War veteran named James M. Taylor. He had been a railroad car painter for the Northwestern Railroad, but after they were married in 1867 she began to teach her husband the art and science of dentistry. Seeking to escape the harsh Chicago winters, they moved to Lawrence, Kan., where they established the “finest and most lucrative practice in Kansas.”
In the early 1880s, they moved their practice to the building that is now 809 Vermont St. Lucy Hobbs Taylor was active in many fraternal groups and a participant in civic organizations and professional dental societies. Childless, she and her husband practiced dentistry together until his death in 1886. A year later she retired, continuing her civic activities and campaigning for women’s rights in the Republican Party.
Dr. Taylor was not happy in retirement, and in 1895 she moved her home and office back into 809 Vermont, continuing a limited practice until her death from a stroke in 1910. She is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Lawrence.
The Woman’s Dental Association of the U.S. was founded in 1892 by Dr. Mary Stillwell-Kuesel with 12 charter members, and grew to 100 members in its first year, providing mutual support and continuing education. This association existed until 1898. In 1921, 12 women dentists met in Milwaukee during the annual meeting of the National Dental Association (NDA) and formed the Federation of American Women Dentists. This organization became the American Association of Women Dentists, sustaining a tradition of mentorship and support for the common interests of women dentists. Today the organization serves more than 1,200 members, and recognizes an outstanding woman dentist each year with the Lucy Hobbs Taylor Award.
Step Sponsored By: The Douglas County Dental Society and the American Association of Women Dentists