Bridging the gap – female pioneers of dentistry

In Australia today, almost half of all dentists are female; however, that hasn’t always been the case.

In 1947, three young women enrolled to study dentistry at University of Queensland. Their class was made up of two other women and over 100 men. Four years later, they would be among the 81 students to graduate.

Each of the women, Joyce, Millicent, and Erica, would go on to forge interesting careers and while life took them in many different directions, the bond between them was always strong and in retirement the trio chose to call Coorparoo Aged Care home, sharing the next stage of life together.

The women were inspired to follow in the footsteps of their family with each of them having brothers who were either dentists or doctors and Millicent’s father was also a dentist.

At university the three were firm friends, well-liked by their fellow students, and they enjoyed the social scene attending many events and balls. Joyce was known for being beautifully dressed and always having her dark curly hair well groomed, while Erica who made all of her own fashionable clothes was the most vivacious and outgoing of the group.

Millicent decided to become a librarian in the physics department of Queensland Institute of Technology and later married a dentist, going on to have four children, one of whom is also a dentist. “I have lived a very full life and enjoyed all of it” stated Millicent.

Joyce graduated in 1951 and started work in the Melbourne Dental Clinic, but later had her own dental practice in Brisbane on Wynnum Road sharing premises with her brother who was a GP. She also married and continued to work. Joyce said, “It was lucky that I had my brother in the practice as I often had to call on him to assist me with extractions”.

Erica graduated in the same year as Joyce and while initially she became a school dentist in North Queensland and the Darling Downs, she later travelled to England, Melbourne, and Canberra to practice. Somehow, she found time to have two children as well who are frequent visitors to the facility. “Our study group became very close and continued to meet 70 years later” said Erica.

Family members of the trio are frequent visitors to Coorparoo Aged Care which is proud to be home to such extraordinary women who were pioneers of their generation. Footnote: We are very grateful to Denise, also in the same year as Erica, Millicent and Joyce for sharing her very fond memories of her friends, provided in long hand, just a few days after her 93rd birthday!