Exhibit at U-M School of Dentistry museum shows important history of school
The University of Michigan's School of Dentistry holds a place in history when it comes to early female graduates in the field as well as the first African American graduate. An exhibit at the Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry, located at the U-M School of Dentistry, 1011 N. University Ave., offers the public a chance to learn about that history.
The exhibit is called Women Dentists: Changing the Face of Dentistry, and includes photos, notes, and articles from university alumni journals and dentistry publications featuring 23 women, nine of whom received their dental degrees from U-M.
"The current population of students are not always aware that women were not always in the same level of attendance as they are today in the dental schools,"said Shannon O'Dell, the museum's curator.
She says women graduated from the U-M Dental School as early as the 1880s. One example is Clara MacNaughton, who O'Dell says embraced both the professional aspects of dentistry as well as being involved in suffrage activities.
"Ida Gray was the first African American student to enter a dental school and that was here at U-M," said O'Dell, who adds that there is an award given in her name. "Women have been involved and made some important strides in dentistry for females of today."
Jonathan Taft, the first dean of the U-M School of Dentistry, defended the rights of women in the dentistry program arguing against many male colleagues who believed women shouldn't be allowed to practice. Taft wrote, "Women can accomplish good work and I have observed they are always above men in their class."
The Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry is one of just a few world-wide preserving the history of dentistry. The museum is named after Dr. Gordon H. Sindecuse, a U-M alumnus from the dental class of 1921, whose gift in 1991 to the School of Dentistry provides the endowment income to operate the museum.