Women in Dentistry The full contributions that women have made in Georgia will likely never be fully appreciated. After all, many men and women practiced dentistry in Native American times and on into Colonial Times with practical training, but no formal schooling or professional recognition of any kind. It should therefore surprise no one that information about the first women to practice dentistry in Georgia is even more scarce. Despite these untold years of practical experience, professional recognition took a long time to arrive in these parts. But while long overdue, Georgia’s daughters in dentistry have, in the last 75 years, gone from a tiny minority to a powerful, growing and guiding force in the Peach State’s professional community. “South of Atlanta, no one had even heard of women dentists in 1956, when I enrolled in Emory’s School of Dentistry,” said Anne Hanse, DDS. “Today, women graduates have the same acceptance and opportunities as their male counterparts.” But it took quite a while for the people of Georgia to accept the notion of a woman earning a license to practice dentistry, just as it did elsewhere across the nation. The American Association of Women Dentists (AAWD) identifies Dr. Emeline Roberts as the nation’s first woman dentist. Roberts began her practice in Danielsonville, Conn., in 1859. However, most people credit Lucy Hobbs Taylor for breaking down the barriers that prevented a woman from becoming a
dentist. Taylor began studying dentistry at an extremely young age. Few dental schools even existed at the time, and none accepted women as students. However, she persevered until Dr. Jonathan Taft, dean of the Ohio College of Dental Surgery, agreed to let her assist in his Cincinnati office for three months while she searched for a preceptor. Finally, after visiting and being turned down by just about every dentist in the surrounding area, Dr. Samuel Wardle accepted her shortly after he graduated from the Ohio College of Dental Surgery in 1859. “To him alone belongs the honor of making it possible for women to enter the profession of dentistry,” Taylor later wrote. Of course, she received no pay and had to take in sewing to supplement the money she had previously saved while working as a school teacher. She learned quickly however. A set of dentures she built and entered in “The Mechanics Fair,” which Cincinnati hosted in 1859, even won first prize. With that prestigious prize and Wardle’s highest recommendation in hand, she again applied for admission into the Ohio College of Dental Surgery. Nevertheless, the college rebuffed her again. So Wardle suggested she do what many young men were doing in Ohio at the time – start practicing without a license. Taylor took his advice and opened an office on her 28th birthday March 14, 1861. Yet circumstances again conspired against her. When South Carolinians opened fire on Fort
Sumter later that year, the outbreak of the Civil War doomed her plans to practice dentistry in Ohio. To get away from the war zones, she borrowed money, Taylor moved to Iowa, and once more began treating patients. Her knowledge, skill, compassion, and professionalism quickly earned her the respect of citizens and other dentists alike. Knowing that she still desired to earn a degree in dentistry, the Iowa State Dental Society finally – and unanimously – amended its Constitution and Bylaws to accept Hobbs as a full member. The society then selected her as a delegate to the upcoming ADA convention, where they made it clear to the every dentist in Iowa would withdraw from ADA if a dental school didn’t soon agree to accept a woman student. The ADA relented and her old advocate Dr. Jonathan Taft at last admitted her into the Ohio College of Dental Surgery in the winter of 1865. It took only one session for her to prove her proficiency to the faculty there, and she received her DDS degree on February 21, 1866. Her achievement also vaulted the dental profession far beyond most social institutions of the day. After all, the 19th amendment didn’t assure women of the right to vote until 1920 – 54 years after Taylor earned her degree. Twenty four years later, still 30 years before suffrage, Ida Gray also became the first woman of African descent to earn a DDS degree when she graduated from the University the University of Michigan School of Dentistry and began practicing in Chicago in 1890. Though they lacked the right to vote for either Democrat Grover Cleveland or Republican Benjamin Harrison in the hotly contested Presidential election of 1892, woman dentists in the United States achieved several milestones the following year. According to the AAWD, 150 women practiced dentistry throughout the nation at that time. These pioneers banded together to create the
Women’s Dental Association in 1893. The experiment only lasted five years, but set many precedents today’s AAWD. By the turn of the century, the more than 800 women practiced dentistry in the United States. The total continued to surge until 1920, when women represented 3 percent of all U.S. dentists. Another landmark event occurred during that period as well, as Drs. Gillette Hayden and Grace Rogers Spoulding founded the American Academy of Periodontology in 1914. Both went on to serve as AAWD president in later years. The organization itself was reborn in 1921 as the Federation of American Women Dentists. Members adopted the current name – American Association of Women Dentists – in 1929. Despite these gains, the number of women licensed to practice dentistry waned to around 1.3 percent of all dentists by 1920 and hovered in that range for a half century. Even during World War II, when women took over may jobs previously categorized as “men’s work,” dentistry did not experience the trend in the way that other industries and professions did. Sadly, Georgia’s records are rather sketchy when it comes to the women who practiced dentistry here in the Peach State prior to World War II. Records indicate that the first woman to graduate from Southern Dental College, a predecessor of the Emory University School of Dentistry was Dr. Daisy Zachary McGuire. However, she moved to North Carolina to set up her practice. However, records do make it clear that women began committing themselves to becoming dentists in greater numbers during World War II and the years that followed. Perhaps because of the challenges they had to overcome in acquiring the education and training necessary to practice dentistry, many of these women went on to become leaders in the profession. Dr. Mary Lynn Morgan, who
graduated from Atlanta-Southern Dental College in 1943 and practiced pediatric dentistry in Atlanta for 32 years, provides an ideal example. “In high school, I worked as a dental assistant and became interested in the field,” Morgan said. “I knew I wanted to be involved in medicine, and dentistry seemed the perfect career choice. I hadn’t met any other women in dentistry, but it didn’t discourage me. I never even thought it was an issue.” “Graduating in 1943, as one of three women in my class, I began my adult life as an exception to the rules,” she added. “I first started in practice with Dr. Frank Johnson, whose mother had also been a dentist. Because of this, he never thought twice about working with a woman.” Morgan went on to serve as a part-time faculty member at the Emory University School of Dentistry from 1951-1976. She played a leading role in establishing Emory’s department of pediatric dentistry, and served as its acting chair from 1956 until 1957. She joined three other dentists in founding the Georgia Society of Dentistry for Children and served as the organization’s president in 1961. She was also inducted into the American College of Dentists in 1961 and became an Honorable Fellow of the GDA in 1965. Somehow, she even found time to marry the Atlanta Constitution’s legendary editor and publisher Ralph McGill in 1967. In the decades after Morgan began practicing, other women followed in her footsteps for many different reasons. Like Morgan, most didn’t give much thought to becoming a pioneer or breaking down gender barriers. In fact, family ties often had more to do with a woman’s decision to pursue a career in dentistry than her desire to blaze new trails. “There was never any doubt in my mind that I would become a dentist,” Dr. Virginia Englett told GDA Action in early 1995. “Both my mother and aunt were dental hygienists and
my father was a dental salesman. My father spoke so highly of dentists, he truly influenced me in pursuit of the profession.” Englett, who passed away in February 2008, earned her doctorate in dentistry at Emory in 1952 and also practiced pediatric dentistry in Atlanta for many years. She served as president of the American Association of Women in Dentistry in 1962, was named an Honorable Fellow by the GDA in 1970, and received Emeritus status in 1988. In comparison, Dr. Marilyn E. Stone said that her interest in pursuing a career stemmed from having worked briefly as a medical technician at Emory University Hospital after studying biology and chemistry at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama. In the process, she also got acquainted with a number of medical and dental students at Emory and found the “dental students a lot more interesting.” Figuring that their chosen field of study must have had something to do with it, she enrolled in dental school instead. After completing work on her DDA degree at Emory in 1955, Stone initially set out to establish a practice in her native Palm Beach County, Florida. However, she returned to Georgia after encountering strong resistance among the dentists in that area to having a woman practicing on their turf. One portly dentist even told her frankly that he and his colleagues had discussed the matter and would not refer a patient to a woman dentist under any circumstances. “I got right in my car and started driving back to Georgia,” she said. The Sunshine State’s loss proved to be the Peach State’s gain, as she went on to make many major contributions to the profession and to organized dentistry. Stone worked actively in the GDA’s Northern District for many years, and served as president of the AAWD in November 1965. When the January 1966 issue of Journal of the Georgia Dental Association
reported on this achievement, the publication dutifully added that, “There are currently 14 women dentists in Georgia. Eleven are Caucasian, one oriental and two are Negroes. Of this group, seven are in general practice, three are pedodontists, two are retired (to raise families), one is a graduate student in oral pathology and one who is not licensed to practice in the U.S. is employed as an assistant in a dental office.” Stone went on to receive many more honors in the years after her term as AAWD president. For example, she served as president of the Georgia Society of Dentistry for Children in 1968, she became a Fellow of the International College of Dentists in 1970, and then-Governor Jimmy Carter appointed her to the Georgia State Board of Dental Examiners in 1974. She also became a Fellow of the American College of Dentists in 1974, the GDA named her an Honorable Fellow in 1975, and Governor George Busbee appointed her to the Georgia Board of Dentistry in 1978. In comparison, Dr. Anne Hanse followed her future husband into the dental profession. She enrolled at Emory in 1956 because “I married an aspiring dental student and his enthusiasm rubbed off on me. I began to think what a good life we would have as partners in a profession (I was right!). And, never one to take a back seat, I began applying to dental schools.” “Fortunately for me, Emory, with remarkable foresight, had begun accepting qualified women students in its program,” she added. “Some faculty members must have wondered what I was doing there but, when they became convinced that my sole purpose was to become a good dentist and not get special consideration, they looked upon me as a regular student. My classmates and, later, my colleagues always accepted me as one of their own and I developed great respect for their high standards in every sense of the word.”
“My competitive spirit made me want to be equal to, if not a little bit better than, my male classmates,” she said. “I soon found it was hard enough just to keep up with them. I later became fond of saying, I became the best – and only – student of my gender in the freshman class.” Hanse more than held her own, though. She went on to practice pediatric dentistry in Macon and Warner Robins for many years. She also served the profession and the GDA in many different capacities during the course of her career, earning a wide range of honors along the way. For example, the GDA named her an Honorable Fellow in 1974. She received the American Dental Association’s Award for Preventive Dentistry in 1975. She became first woman to serve as president of the Georgia Board of Dentistry in 1989. Hanse also received the GDA Presidential Award in 1991. Despite their many contributions to organized dentistry in Georgia, Hanse, Stone, Englett, Morgan, and other women remained but a tiny minority of the state’s dentists during the 1950s and 1960s. Nationally, the percentage of women practicing dentistry remained extremely low as well. In fact, women had even dropped from 1.3 percent of practicing dentists in 1930 to 1.2 percent of practicing dentists in 1968. Their number included a young woman and future Georgia practitioner named Carolyn Sue M. Rude’, who graduated from the University of Texas School of Dentistry in 1966. “The University of Texas School of Dentistry accepted its first woman student in 1962, the year before I enrolled,” said Dr. Rude’, who has now retired from the practice of pediatric dentistry. “She was the only woman in a class of 100.” Rude’ was also the only woman in her class when she began classes in 1963. But the classes that followed her had nine, two, and three women, respectively.
“Men comprised the entire faculty when I graduated in 1966, and they still didn’t quite know how to respond to women in the dental student body,” Rude’ said. “Fortunately, by the time I got to Georgia in 1973, people had gotten a lot more accustomed to the idea of women practicing dentistry.” Rude’ worked in public health programs in Houston, San Francisco, Corpus Christi, and Dallas before she moved to Georgia. During that time, however, a sudden, seismic shift had gotten under way. In 1970, U.S. dental schools had a grand total of 231 women enrolled nationwide. But by 1975, which the United Nations had appropriately designated International Women’s Year, the number of women enrolled in U.S. dental schools had surged to 1,861 – more than a sevenfold increase in the total of just five years before. Part of this growth resulted from the expansion of existing dental schools across the country, and the establishment of new institutions for educating dentists of the future. The latter included the establishment of the School of Dentistry at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) in Augusta. MCG welcomed its first class of dental doctoral students in 1969, the students included Mary Terry. Dr. Marilyn Russell enrolled the following year and went on to earn her degree in 1974. Dr. Patricia H. Palmer completed work on her degree at the Georgia Medical College School of Dentistry in 1975. The GDA also bid farewell to a woman who had a profound influence on organized dentistry in Georgia during the 1970s. Gustie Pinholster, who many GDA members referred to as “the Grand Matron of dentistry,” retired on December 31, 1974, after 21 years of faithful service to the association. Pinholster’s father and brother had both practiced dentistry in Georgia and played active roles in GDA operations for many years before she joined the GDA staff at the Central Office in Macon in 1953. Her father, Dr. C.A.
Yarbrough Sr. pioneered many facets of dentistry and practice until age 84. He also served at the 76th President in 1942. Pinholster’s brother, Bill Yarbrough, also followed in their father’s footsteps and practiced until he passed away in 1965 at age 51. Pinholster provided a strong and steady presence within the association throughout her career. She ably assisted Executive Directors Paul Conaway and Steven Janas, as well as more than a score of GDA presidents, in keeping the association on course and functioning efficiently throughout her tenure. The GDA recognized these efforts by making Pinholster an Honorary Member in 1971. The GDA moved its Central Office from Macon to Atlanta soon after Pinholster’s retirement. At the time, no one believed they would ever see anyone who could equal her many contributions to the association – and they were right. Just over two years later, an even greater force of nature began to rise on the GDA’s horizon. Martha Phillips became part of the GDA team in 1977 as an administrative assistant to Executive Director Steve Janas. She went on to become the association’s executive director in 1986 and has helped the GDA achieve new heights of greatness during the course of her career. A full accounting of her achievements would require a separate volume longer than this entire book. Suffice to say that Phillips played an integral part in every GDA undertaking since she took her current post. “To say that I have the utmost respect and admiration for Martha would put it mildly,” said Dr. Donald E. Johnson, who served as GDA President in 1987 and offered Phillips the position of GDA executive director when Steve Janas retired. “Since the House of Delegates had the wisdom to employ her as executive director, Georgia has gained national recognition as an association and the dentists
of Georgia have been totally served and protected in our statehouse. I know of no individual who has ever done his or her job better or with greater dedication than Martha.” Indeed, the many honors she has received clearly indicate the extent of her contributions to the dental profession in Georgia and elsewhere. Among other things, the Fellows of the American College of Dentists honored her with the organization’s Award of Merit in 1996. The International College of Dentists named her an Honorable Fellow in 1999. The ADA named Phillips an Honorary Member in 2003. The list goes on and on. During that same period, future GDA President Marie Schweinebraten was busy getting her career under way. She had earned her DDS degree at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine in 1977. Of course, Schweinebraten already had experience in breaking a gender barrier before she enrolled in dental school. She did her undergraduate work at Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania, where she was one of the first women admitted into the previously all-male institution. “Having graduated from Washington and Jefferson at the time I did, it didn’t seem strange at all that my dental class at the University of Pittsburgh only had seven women students out of 140 students,” Dr. Schweinebraten said. “I simply built on the experience.” Her educational background also prepared her well for the next phase of her career, the U.S. Army Dental Corps. She served at Fort Gordon from 1977-1980 and Fort MacPherson from 1980-1981. She achieved the rank of captain and earned the U.S. Army Commendation Medal and First Oak Leaf Cluster while serving her country. Schweinebraten then entered Emory University to work on her certificate in periodontics, which she earned in 1983.
As she studied at Emory, the influence women dentists had on the profession continued to gain momentum in the civilian world. ADA statistics place the total number of women practicing dentistry in 1979 at 1,987. Although that still represented less than two percent of all practicing dentists, everyone could clearly see the winds of change starting to blow with 3,112 women enrolled in dental school that year. By the early 1980s, women also held a significant number of leadership positions in state regulatory agencies. For example, Stone served on the state Board of Dentistry in 198283. At the same time, the Georgia Department of Human Services Dental Advisory Committee included both Hanse and Rude’, as well as consumer representative Juanita Heel and hygienist Janice Rixey. The names of women dentists also began to appear more frequently in the pages of GDA Action each time the association welcomed new members. For example, the publication’s May 1983 issue listed Dr. Mary B. Ringler and Dr. Karyn L. Stockwell among its roster of new members. Other women listed as new GDA members that year included Dr. Carol Karafotias, Dr. Jill S. Banning, Dr. Cynthia Jones, and Dr. Carol A. Wooden. Schweinebraten joined the GDA that year as well. Other future stars who joined the GDA during the 1980s included Pamela Van Praag, who graduated from Emory in 1984. She eventually replaced Hanse on the Georgia Board of Dentistry in 1993. The number of women enrolling in dental schools continued to spike during that period as well. According to ADA statistics, women represented 25 percent of all dental students in the United States by 1985. Within another five years, the number of women in dental school had grown to 34.4 percent of all students – and well over 15,000 women were practicing dentistry across the country. A
woman, Hanse specifically, had also taken office as the first woman president of the Georgia Board of Dentistry in 1989. GDA membership also reflected the change. As the association entered the 1990s, just about one out of every four new members was a woman. Women also held many more prominent positions within the profession. The GDA named Palmer and Rude as Honorable Fellows in 1990. Stone became a GDA Life Member that same year. Dr. Geraldine Morrow became the first woman president of the ADA in 1991. When Dr. Aronson presented Presidential Commendations at the GDA’s 1992 Annual Meeting, recipients included Palmer and Phillips. The ’90s also brought a wealth of new women dentists into the GDA fold. Dr. Celia Dunn, for example, graduated from the MCG School of Dentistry in 1990 at the age of 41. Dr. Donna Thomas Moses also completed work on her DDS degree at the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry that year. She then enrolled at MCG to earn her Certificate of Periodontics, which she received in 1992. Dunn and Moses immediately began making a positive impact on the profession, too. By 1995, Dunn ran a private practice in Evans, Georgia, had developed the KIDS Program of dental screening and charting of elementary students for identification purposes, received the Samuel D. Harris Award from the ADA, and taught part time at the MCG School of Dentistry. Moses, meanwhile, joined the GDA shortly after she left MCG and began getting involved in association endeavors at the district level. In 1995, she became a member of the House of Delegates and began serving on the Dental Health Care Task Committee. The approach of the new millennium brought even more honors and responsibilities to the GDA’s female members. By 1997, Stockwell and Moses served on the board of the Northwestern District as vice president and
treasurer, respectively. Dr. Jennifer Diversi served as president of the Northern District. Most importantly, Schweinebraten had become vice president of the GDA Executive Committee, which the way for her to become the first woman to serve as the association’s president in 2000. By all accounts, Schweinebraten served with distinction during her term in office. She spearheaded the GDA’s successful effort to convince state legislators to increase Medicaid reimbursement levels to the 80-85th percentile. Prior to this victory, Medicaid levels had dipped to about the 40th percentile level, causing many dentists to leave the program because of heavy losses. Following the increase, however, many dentists came back into the Medicaid program. As a result, many more of Georgia’s low income citizens could enjoy greater access to dental care. In addition, Schweinebraten implemented a plan to streamline GDA operations and make the association more member-friendly. The initiative resulted in a dramatic reduction in the number of GDA committees, a greater emphasis on information technology, and the opening of new lines of communication with hygiene educators throughout the state. She also helped set the stage for women to make even more contributions to dentistry in Georgia as the new millennium got under way. Another milestone for women dentists came in May 2003, when MCG Dr. Connie Drisko as the third dean of its School of Dentistry. Drisko earned her dental degree at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and her certificate in periodontics at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leavenworth Kansas. The lofty goals she set when she took the school’s helm included using new training procedures to continue graduating high-quality dentists, recruiting and retaining highly skilled dental faculty members, advancing the school’s
reputation as a premier research institution, and incorporating more case-based, small group, and technology-based techniques into the curriculum. She has also made great strides in getting MCG dental students more attuned to and involved in providing Georgia’s citizens with greater access to dental care. “We have made significant changes in our off-site service learning activities, and have increased the time that our students are doing externships in public health and community clinics from two weeks to eventually six to nine weeks,” Drisko said. “By sending our students to the populations that need them, we enrich their education and help address access issues at the same time.” While Drisko worked to improve the quality of the education that MCG dental students received, the number of women recognized as GDA Honorable Fellows also continued to increase. Honorees for 2002 included Dunn, Dr. Louvenia Annette Rainge, Dr. Barbara J. Utermark, and Dr. Robin S. Reich. Dr. Celeste Coggin of Atlanta joined the role of Honorable Fellows in 2003, followed by Moses and Dr. Mollie A. Winston in 2004. Dr. Kathy A. Huber became an Honorable Fellow in 2005. The GDA then selected the second woman to serve as association president when it named Moses as president-elect 2006. She took office in 2007 and served through the association’s 2008 annual meeting. “My parents tell me that I wanted to be a dentist wince age 2,” Moses said. “I would ask Santa for a ‘dentist’s bag.’ “I can never remember anything but wanting to become a dentist. “You can only imagine how many dental procedures I performed on my pets through the years.” By the time Moses reached the “home stretch” of her term as president in the spring of 2008, the GDA had 535 women on its membership role. That total still represents only 17 percent of the association’s
membership, but leading authorities believe that number will keep growing until the GDA has the same percentage of women as the general population. “Women will find tremendous opportunities in general practice and in every dental specialty in the years to come, especially in oral surgery and other specialties,” Drisko said. “We also expect the proportion of male and female students to reach a 50-50 balance within the next 10 years. Women already represent more than 50 percent of the overall Georgia college student population. So it should surprise no one that that they will soon represent half of all dental students in Georgia as well.” “During the years I attended MCG, more women enrolled to study dentistry, women in all stages of life,” said 2008 MCG school of dentistry graduate Cara DeLeon daughter of Dr. Eladio DeLeon Jr., chairman of the MCG School of Dentistry’s Department of Orthodontics. “More and more women are also pursing careers in specialties where men have practiced almost exclusively in the past.” Of course, time hasn’t quite changed everything. “I plan to specialize in pediatric dentistry and work to make sure that all Georgia children get best possible care,” DeLeon said. “So I expect that I’ll be very involved in public health dentistry too.” At that point, she learned that her planned career path sounded much like that of trailblazing woman dentists like Dr. Mary Lynn Morgan, Dr. Anne Hanse, Dr. Marilyn Stone, and others. “Really?” said. Then after a momentary pause she added: “What a great honor it will be to continue the tradition started by those incredible pioneers.”