Celebrating Women’s History Month with Dean Spatafore

In celebration of Women’s History Month, our new virtual conversation series continues. [View Image]

Please join us on Thursday, March 11, at 5:15 p.m. for a conversation with VCU School of Dentistry’s first female dean, Dr. Clara Spatafore, also a past president of the American Association of Endodontists. Register directly via Zoom Webinar here.

Women’s History Month was first heralded as Women’s History Week with the US Congress passing a resolution authorizing and requesting then President Ronald Reagan to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982. A celebration of the vital role of women in both history and contemporary life, the entire month of March has been lauded as Women’s History Month since 1987. 

Women in Dentistry

Emeline Roberts Jones is recognized as the first woman to practice dentistry in the United States, and Dr. Lucy Hobbs Taylor, was the first woman to be awarded a dental degree in the world in 1866. The American Association of Women Dentists was established in 1921 when a mere 3% of U.S. dentists were female. Just one year later in 1922, Dr. Tillie Lyons Weinstein became one of the first women to graduate from VCU School of Dentistry, then the Medical College of Virginia. Dr. Weinstein was actually the older sister and inspirational source for the storied dental career of our former dean, Dr. Harry Lyons, for whom our Lyons Building is named. A native of Lexington, Virginia, Dr. Weinstein practiced in Roanoke until 1934 then took time off to raise a family and began practicing again in 1952 when she moved to Arlington. She and her family established the Lyons and Weinstein Fund in 1976 to support activities of the VCU School of Dentistry. 

In 1907, Irene Newman was the first “dental hygienist” to implement dental hygiene duties in a clinical setting. This predated America’s first dental hygiene program established, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1913.

Today, the American Dental Association reports that 34.5% of practicing dentists are women. According to the American Dental Education Association 53% of first year predoctoral class nationally was comprised of women in 2019.

The first female dean of any dental school was Dr. Jeanne Sinkford at Howard University’s College of Dentistry in 1975. The second, in 1976 was Dr. Eugenia Mobley, at Meharry School of Dentistry. The third female dean was not appointed until 1998, with Dr. Mary Lynne Capilouto, becoming dean of the University of Alabama’s School of Dentistry. The first female to serve as president of the ADA, founded in 1859, was Dr. Geraldine Morrow in 1991. The first female president of the National Dental Association, established in 1913, was Dr. Hazel Harper elected in 1997.

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