Big News! I’ve found a photograph of Jonathan M. and Mary (Turck) Clark’s eighth and final child, Jennie Marietta Clark, at the age of about 25 years old. This is one of only a handful of photos we have of any members of Jonathan and Mary Clark’s family and (to the best of my knowledge) the first image we have of Jennie:
Jennie Clark Morrison (“Mrs. F. S. Morrison”), detail from “Class of 1882, University of Michigan School of Dentistry; UM_DDS_1882.” Public domain, courtesy of University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan Library Digital Collections. Accessed: September 15, 2021. Click to open larger image in new window.
Dental College, Class of 1882
Our portrait of Jennie is a detail taken from this composite portrait of the University of Michigan’s School of Dentistry, Class of 1882:
“Class of 1882, University of Michigan School of Dentistry; UM_DDS_1882.” Public domain, courtesy of University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan Library Digital Collections. Click to open larger image in new window.
How did Jennie M. Clark get from her childhood home in Milwaukee to the University of Michigan’s dental school? See our previous post, A Dental Divertimento…, for all the details.
The Doctors Morrison
By the time this composite photograph was put together, Jennie Clark had married her dental school classmate Frank Scott Morrison and, as was custom at the time, taken her husband’s surname. Their photographs are found top center of the group portrait. The text of the key to the photo (dark area at bottom center) is blurred in this reproduction, but they are clearly identified there as “F. S. Morrison” and “Mrs. F. S. Morrison.”
“F. S. Morrison” and “Mrs. F. S. Morrison,” detail from “Class of 1882, University of Michigan School of Dentistry; UM_DDS_1882.” Public domain, courtesy of University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan Library Digital Collections. Click to open larger image in new window.
In our previous post, we noted that Dr. Jennie Clark Morrison sometimes advertised her practice with the headline “Lady Dentist.” From my recent—if limited—research, it is clear that female dentists were quite rare in 19th-and early 20th-century America.
With that in mind, this photograph of the Class of 1882, and other information from the university’s dental museum (see below), suggests that the University of Michigan’s dental college was one of the more progressive institutions of the era. The dental school’s online database lists 32 graduates in the class of ’82, four of whom were women:
- Jennie Marietta Clark (Mrs. Frank S. Morrison)
- Margaret Humphreys (Mrs. Elmer E. Paine)
- Harriet (Hattie) Lovina Martindale (Mrs. Wilbur A. Studley)
- Kate Cameron Moody (Mrs. Joseph D. Moody)
Of the 32 members of the class of 1882 listed on database, only 29 appear on the composite photo. All four of the women are present.
What sort of imposing facility did a modern dental school of the 1880s occupy? Here’s the then state of the art:
“Second location for Dental School 1877; BL004225.” Public domain, courtesy of University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan Library Digital Collections. Click to open larger image in new window.
One of the four original buildings on campus, located on South University east of the Presidents’ house, where Clements Library now stands. Used as Professor’s house from 1840 to 1877 and as the Dental College from 1877 to 1891. East wing added in 1878. In 1891, the Dental School moved, the building was enlarged to the north, a third story was added, the entrance changed to the west, and “Engineering” placed over the door. Used by Engineeering from 1891 to 1922. After 1904 it was called “Old Engineering Building.” Demolished in 1922. On verso: Photographed in 1887 by A.L. Colton, ’89.
Jennie Clark Morrison, a pioneer in her profession
Today’s photos, and much of the information for this post, come from the University of Michigan’s online digital collections and its Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry:
The Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry, housed within the School of Dentistry, is one of a handful of museums throughout the world devoted to preserving and exhibiting the history of dentistry.
The Museum exhibits and preserves a historical museum collection containing over 25,000 objects focused on the history of dentistry with particular interest on dental practice and technology in the United States and Michigan dating from the 18th century to today. We are dedicated to educating our audiences about the history of dentistry through museum exhibition, related programs, research, and preservation of the collections.
The Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry’s homepage is here. They have a searchable online collection here, and an online exhibit, “Women Dentists: Changing the Face of Dentistry” here. The museum also hosts a fascinating Women Dentists Timeline; I highly recommend looking at all the entries. The timeline highlights a few isolated path-breaking American women dentists from the 1850s, ’60’s and ’70s, followed by the University of Michigan’s first female dental school graduate, Jennie Kollock Hilton, Class of 1881. The University of Michigan was also the alma mater of the first African-American woman dentist, Ida Gray Nelson (Rollins), D.D.S., 1890. Dr. Nelson is on the timeline, and her brief biography is here.
The University of Michigan did not graduate its first female dentist until 1881. That means that Jennie Clark Morrison and her three women colleagues of the Class of 1882 were among the true pioneers in their field. And as is often the case when women enter a previously all-male field, they were not always appreciated or made welcome by their colleagues:
In December 1889, Items of Interest published an article by W.R. Spencer decrying women as dentists or in any profession. He also complained that since women worked for lower wages than men, they were unfair competition. His final barb: professional women “must result in moral depravity.”
In a tart response to W.R. Spencer’s attack on women dentists [Dr. Jennie Kollock Hilton] said, “Let us cover him with a mantle of charity; a very small one will suffice… if his effort to belittle woman should prove his death, our earnest prayer shall be that when he is “filling his last cavity,” it may be written on his tombstone, Here lies the last obstructionist to woman dentists.”1
Extract from online profile of Dr. Jennie Kollock Hilton, D.D.S, Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry, accessed September 15, 2021.
I expect to be back next week with more “How’d they get here” stories and images. After that, I’ll probably finally buckle down and see if we can figure out whether Henry Clark actually served in the Civil War. Plus all sorts of unexpected Clark House history along the way.
Be well. See you soon.
1. The source of the quoted material, “Items of Interest,” is presumably “Items of Interest, a monthly magazine of dental art, science and literature.” As an example of the sort of resistance Jennie Clark Morrison may have encountered in her life and profession, here is the full text of dentist W. R. Spencer’s commentary from the December, 1899, “Items of Interest,” page 541, quoted in the Sindecuse Museum’s profile of pioneering dentist Jennie Kollock Hilton:
WOMEN DENTISTS. — W. R. SPENCER, WEST POINT, VA.
Among the items in the October ITEMS OF INTEREST I notice one entitled “Woman Dentist.” There seems to be a growing tendency among the women of the present day to undertake what may be called man’s work. We have women doctors of medicine, law and theology, lecturers, telegraph operators, clerks and accountants without number, and now our own profession has been invaded. and we have women dentists.
Now it does seem to me the line ought to be drawn somewhere, and as a dentist I protest against this invasion of our right. I am a young man, doing fairly well in my profession, and hoping some day to be able to have a home of my own, with a wife to reign over it, but the Lord deliver me from one of these professional women ! and I am sure this will find an echo in the heart of every true man.
It is only when a woman has made up her mind to relinquish all hope of home, and I am tempted to say of Heaven-all desire to lean on an arm which her Creator has made stronger than her own, that it may support her in health, shield her from want and protect her in danger, that she seeks man’s work. It is only when she despises to be a help meet for man, a joy to the household; only when she has lost all maternal instincts, and determined to destroy all that tends to make her lovely and lovable to man—only when she has become a man hater —should she turn to the vocation of man for a support, and become a competitor with him in the great struggle for existence. There is also another reason why women should not be encouraged to undertake man’s work, which is intensely practical, and threatens to be serious, viz., women place too low an estimate on their labor. Man, expecting a family to support, places such value on his labor as will enable him to do so; but in nearly every instance where woman is brought into competition with man she performs the work for about one-half, or we may say just enough to keep herself in food and raiment, with no thought for the future and no provision for a family. This competition thus forcing the price of labor down to just enough to support one person, will necessarily compel men and women to live separately. None but the “born rich” will dare to marry.
Now some may think this is straining the point a little, but the tendency is in this direction, and everything which weakens the reciprocal love and respect of a noble man and a pure woman, which finds expression in the family relation, is contrary to the will of the great Creator, and must result in moral depravity. Therefore, I would keep women out of our noble professions.