Helping One Another
Gaining access to professional training was only the first hurdle. As a minority in a male-dominated profession, women had difficulty being accepted by male dentists and were largely excluded from professional dental organizations. Many also struggled to attract patients.
To combat these roadblocks, women dentists formed their own professional organizations. Such networks helped them develop fully-fledged professional identities. Here, they could present papers on their dental research, share practice tips and mentor one another. Today, women dentists are integrated into dental organizations at every level.
This summer…I saw the changing face of American dentistry…a lot of the faces looking back at me were female, with an equal number of other minorities.Geraldine Morrow, 1991, first woman president of the American Dental Association. Photo courtesy of the ADA Archives.
Women’s Dental Association of the United States, 1892-1898
Twelve women dentists joined forces in 1892, “to organize a society by which they could strengthen themselves by helping one another.” At monthly meetings, members presented scholarly papers and discussed the lack of women entering dental schools. The mailing list included 100 names, which was nearly one third of all women dentists at the time.
Women as Mentors
Vida Latham, noted dentist and physician, worked tirelessly to help women enter and succeed in these fields. She was one of twelve women dentists who met in Milwaukee during the 1921 American Dental Association meeting to found the Federation of Women Dentists. It was intended to provide support, share common interests and help address the challenges women faced in establishing their careers.
M. Evangeline Jordon, founder of pediatric dentistry, understood the value of women’s dental organizations in a predominantly male profession. While a student, she formed the Alpha Upsilon Phi dental sorority (pictured above). In 1910, she established a women’s chapter within the Southern California Dental Association. She was a founding member and first president of the Federation of Women Dentists in 1921.
AAWD—American Association of Women Dentists
Originally founded as the Federation of Women Dentists and renamed in 1928, the American Association of Women Dentists (AAWD) continues to promote women dentists by offering assistance and providing a forum for women to discuss how to balance their personal and professional lives. Visit the AAWD website to learn more about the organization.