Inequality between men and women in the workplace has been an issue in American society since the establishment of this country. There are few people in our history that have attempted to combat the expectation that men are to provide for the family and women stay home to clean and cook. However, the few people who have fought for this inequality to end, have made an immense impact on society. As women, there are certain professions that are considered appropriate or acceptable for us to obtain, such as a teacher or a nurse.
But what about a doctor, a dentist, or an engineer? I’m on an academic path to dentistry, and the reason that it is possible for a woman like me to obtain an education in this field is because of women like Lucy Hobbs Taylor. Lucy Hobbs Taylor was a woman born in 1833, the seventh out of ten children, in northern New York. What makes her a significant role model to young women is that she was the first American woman to graduate from dental school.
Throughout her youth and young adult years, Lucy was always fascinated with the medical field and dreamed of becoming a doctor but following her graduation from high school she became a schoolteacher, because that was one of the few professions that was acceptable for women to obtain. Every year that passed that Lucy was a schoolteacher, the more she longed to study medicine. Her drive was so strong that she decided to move to Cincinnati, Ohio, in hopes to attend the Eclectic College of Medicine, which at the time was the only medical college that accepted women.
Lucy’s dream to become a doctor seemed to finally be working out for her, until she was rejected from the college due to their policy changing back to only admitting men. Unwilling to give up, Lucy began studying privately under a professor from the Ohio medical school. Admiring her passion for the medical field, the professor suggested that she consider studying dentistry, placing her in contact with the dean of the Ohio College of Dental Surgery. The dean, taking Lucy on as a private student, landed her an apprenticeship with a graduate from the college. When her apprenticeship came to a close, she applied to the college of dental surgery, and despite her experience and qualifications, she was denied admission because she was a woman. In spite of all of her rejections, Lucy still refused to give up and opened her own dental practice and moved to Iowa the following year. Soon after, her male colleagues elected her to the first professional dental organization to accept women, the Iowa State Dental Society. Lucy practiced dentistry for four years, through gained support and respect from the dental society, she was finally admitted to the senior class of the Ohio College of Dental Surgery, upon graduating Lucy Hobbs Taylor became the first woman in the nation to earn a degree of doctor in dental surgery. By the year 1900, about 1000 women had followed Lucy Taylor into the field of dentistry, and by 2001, women compromised 37% of dental school graduates. If it were not Lucy’s courage and drive, who knows how long it would have taken for a woman to take a stand against the expected and accepted professions for women. Lucy Hobbs Taylor’s legacy still remains present in todays society. Since 1983, the American Association of Women Dentists has been honoring women in the dental profession with the Lucy Hobbs Taylor Award. This award is the highest honor presented by this organization, recognizing true professional women. Its purpose is to advance, connect, and enrich women dentists’ lives. Not only does this organization, as a whole, empower the women in the dental field, but it recognizes how crucial Lucy Hobbs Taylor was the future of women in medical professions. She did not give up on herself, despite all of the rejection she faced due to her gender. Lucy knew what she was destined for in her life, and that was to aid others in the medical field. Nothing stood in her way, and because of her courage and hard work, many women aspired to be just like her and combat the stereotypical expectations for women. Lucy Hobbs Taylor began the future of women power by working for what she dreamed of and disregarding the men telling her what can could and could not achieve in her life.