Pioneering women at U-M helped shape dentistry today

January 15, 2013
Laura Bailey

ANN ARBOR—Take a short tour with Shannon O’Dell, curator at the Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, as she explains the exhibit “Women Dentists: Changing the Face of Dentistry,” which highlights little-known contributions that women made to the early field of dentistry.

The exhibit features 23 women, nine of whom received their dental degrees from U-M. Among other things, the exhibit chronicles the tough road these early women walked in the all-male profession.

However, they did have allies. Jonathan Taft, the first dean of the U-M School of Dentistry, defended the rights of women in the dentistry program, encouraged their success and argued in support of women against his male colleagues, many of whom believed women shouldn’t practice at all. In one letter on display in the exhibit, Taft wrote, “Women can accomplish good work and I have observed they are always above men in their class.”

The museum is one of a handful in the world devoted to exhibiting and preserving the history of dentistry, and houses more than 15,000 objects. In 1875, U-M was the first public university to offer a dental degree. The museum is named in honor of Dr. Gordon H. Sindecuse, a U-M alumnus from the dental class of 1921. His 1991 gift to the School of Dentistry provides the endowment income to operate a museum focused on the history of dentistry.


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