Emeline Roberts Jones

Emeline Roberts Jones

Induction Category:
Science & Health

Born: 1836

Died: 1916

Inducted: 1994

Town: New Haven

Dr. George Baker, editor of Dental Times in 1865, concluded that “the very form and structure of woman unfits her for its [dental surgery] duties.” Unbeknownst to the good doctor, Emeline Roberts Jones had already established herself as the first woman to practice dentistry in the United States by tending to the teeth of numerous residents of northeastern Connecticut in the years prior to the Civil War.

At age 18, Emeline Roberts married a dentist, Dr. Daniel Jones, who had acquired his knowledge of the field from Dr. R.B. Curtiss in Winsted. There were at that time only a handful of dental colleges in the country. When Emeline displayed an interest in her husband’s profession, she was met with resistance from Jones, who accepted the contemporary belief that dentistry was no occupation for the “frail and clumsy fingers” of a woman. Not to be denied, Jones pursued her interest in dentistry clandestinely. It was only after she had secretly filled and extracted several hundred teeth and demonstrated her skill and ability that her husband finally permitted her to work on some of his patients. Grudgingly, he allowed her to practice with him at his office in Danielsonville in 1855. Four years later, she became his partner, where she enjoyed a reputation as a skilled dentist.

When her husband died in 1864, Emeline Jones was left with two young children. Nevertheless, she bravely carried on alone in order to support her family, traveling with her portable dentist’s chair to eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island. In 1876, she moved to New Haven, where she established a successful practice, which she maintained until her retirement in 1915.

In a career that spanned six decades, Emeline Roberts Jones received numerous awards and honors. In 1893, she served on the Woman’s Advisory Council of the World’s Columbian Dental Conference. She was elected to the Connecticut State Dental Society in 1883, and in 1914, she was made an honorary member of the National Dental Association.

During This Time
1800 - 1920: Industrialization & Reform