Emeline Robert Jones: The First Female Dentist
It is difficult to imagine a time when women did not have the freedom they enjoy today. Nowadays, colleges encourage women to pursue medical professions. That was not always the case: dentistry, and the medical profession at large, used to be unwelcoming to women.
It is amazing to think that Emeline Robert Jones, the first female dentist, practised during a time when women were not even allowed to go to college. This is in stark contrast to modern dental practices such as Smileworks, which have teams of both male and female dentists and clinical support crews.
Emeline was born in 1836 in Connecticut, United States. She married at the tender age of 18, to a dentist named Dr. Daniel Jones. Colleges at the time rejected women, despite the fact that there were not many dental colleges in the country.
People of the Victorian era believed that dentistry was not a suitable profession for women. They consider females to be frail, with weak and clumsy fingers that could not possibly perform tooth extractions.
Emeline showed interest in her husband’s profession and began filling and extracting teeth in secret. Though her husband did not approve of her practise, he eventually caved. He allowed her to join his practice in 1855.
Emeline proved to be a skilled dentist. Just four years after becoming her husband’s clinical assistant, she became his partner. She expanded her skill set by studying anatomy and related subjects, and continued the practise for the rest of her life.
When her husband passed away in 1864, she opened her own practice in New Haven, Connecticut. Her son also took up dentistry at Harvard and Yale, and eventually joined her.
Her success caught the eye of the World’s Columbian Dental Congress, who recognised her as the first female dentist in 1893. In 1914, she received an honorary membership at the National Dental Association and even obtained a license.
Emeline Roberts Jones is a pioneer among women in the medical field. Her persistence is a true inspiration.