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A LOOK BACK……. Or How We Got to Be The Iowa Dental Hygienists Association
Compiled by Eileen Cacioppo, RDH, MS

There are many milestone dates and points of interest in the evolution of our profession. Some you may not have heard but others are well known.

For instance the Southern Dental Association in 1888 resolved that someone should be employed to visit schools to instruct children in proper oral care. Ten years later in 1898 Dr. M.L. Rhein employed a "dental nurse" to perform prophylactic and educational services in his office. By 1902 F.W. Low advocated a profession for females he termed "odonticure" to go to people's homes to clean and polish teeth. The same year Dr. Cyrus Wright suggested that women have a year of college to be trained to clean teeth and that their profession be considered a sub-specialty of dentistry.

We all know that Dr. Alfred C. Fones trained Irene Newman, his assistant (and cousin) to provide preventive procedures in his office. He is considered the founder of dental hygiene since establishing the Fones School of Dental Hygiene, the first formal education and practical lab courses for hygienists in his carriage house in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1913. Of the thirty-two enrollees were teachers, nurses, dental assistants, and the wives of three dentists. Twenty-seven ladies graduated in 1914 and promptly formed the Connecticut Dental Hygienists Association. Irene Newman was granted the first dental hygiene license issued in Connecticut in 1917.

What you may not know is Iowa granted three dental hygiene licenses in 1917 also. Emma Weisgerber of Des Moines, Ida Mary Black of Mason City, and Lillian Tenney of Des Moines were given license numbers 1, 2, and 3. They were also the only hygienists not graduating from an educational program but listed "office experience" in their applications. The very next year began our long list of educationally prepared hygienists. The following decades included some graduates from Rochester Training School, Forsyth Dental Infirmary, Columbia, Northwestern, Minnesota, Kansas City Western, Marquette, Georgetown, etc. (The State University of Iowa admitted their first class of twenty-four dental hygiene students in 1953.)

On May 5, 1921 five dental hygienists met in the Harris-Emery Tea Room in Des Moines for the purpose of organizing the Iowa State Oral Hygienists Society. (Harris-Emery department store was on the corner of Walnut and 7th and was purchased by Younkers in 1927). Lucile M. Park, Des Moines was elected President, Bernice L. Patton, Sioux City, Vice President, and Emma Weisgerber, Secretary-Treasurer. It was decided to meet the following year at the same time of the annual meeting of the Iowa State Dental Society.

Their second meeting was held May 3, 1922 at the Coliseum where they elected to change their name to Iowa State Dental Hygienists Society and to assess yearly dues of $1.00. They also had their first official "speaker", Dr. J. G. Hildebrand of Waterloo speaking on "More Hygienists for Iowa".

At their third meeting, May 2, 1923 (again at the Coliseum) they adopted a constitution and bylaws and voted to continue with the same three officers. Miss Weisgerber declined to continue as secretary/treasurer and Ada C. Lardner was elected to that position. Dr. Hildebrand again spoke with the group, this time on "Affiliation with the National Council for Interchange of License". (Isn't it interesting to think reciprocity was a topic from the very beginning?) A motion to change the name of the organization again was tabled until after the organizational meeting of the national hygienists association. Miss Weisgerber was appointed to gather information about the national meeting to be held in Cleveland and to report back to the officers. The treasurer's report was of interest since the dues assessment resulted in $18 and with bills paid left a balance 7 cents.

Skipping ahead to the sixth meeting held May 5, 1926 is of note because not only did they elect new officers, Clella McCullough, President, Ida Hillyer, Vice President and Ada Lardner as secretary/treasurer but Ethel Ruben was elected as representative to the national Dental Hygiene convention with the Misses McCullough and Hillyer as alternate delegates. (I cannot find reference to Iowa being officially represented at ADHA at their first three meetings.)

At the seventh meeting held May 3, 1927 among other business Ethel Ruben was again elected delegate to the national convention to be held in Detroit October 24 and Emma Weisgerber as alternate delegate.

At the eighth meeting, May 1, 1928 Emma Weisgerber was elected as delegate to the ADHA (first time it was referred to that way) to be held in Minneapolis August 27 and 28th. There was discussion surrounding attempts to have 100% of Iowa hygienists as members. The annual luncheon was held at the Younkers Tea Room with talks presented by Drs. Henshaw, Hildebrand, and Mandell. They suggested that the Iowa hygienists formulate a plan "by which the qualifications of the hygienists might be raised to meet the demand which in their opinion will need to be made in the near future". The treasury had a balance of one dime (.10) after bills paid

At the eleventh meeting in 1931 a "first" occurred. Following the business meeting the hygienists "adjourned to meet in the clinic rooms of IDS for a program demonstrating work done in the office, public schools, and institutions". Twelve hygienists and fourteen guests also enjoyed Dr. Fred Moore's speech on "The Health Program in Des Moines Schools". The annual report of membership that year showed 23 hygienists registered in Iowa, 13 practicing in the state, 6 of which were working in public schools and 2 were practicing in institutions. Eight hygienists were also employed in private practice.

By 1941 ten active members and one honorary member gave "considerable discussion relative to affiliation with ADHA " which resulted in the following motion "that Iowa State Dental Hygienists Association make application for membership in ADHA and if accepted that the secretary be instructed to follow instructions relative to said membership as given by the ADHA". The motion carried unanimously.

The Iowa Dental Hygienists Association that exists today was born out of the dedication of our early hygienists. Their commitment to service, fellowship and sharing helped stimulate the growth of the profession and our professional organization that is alive and well today.