Tribute to Gertrude E. Curtis, one of the first African-American female dentists

  • February 12, 2019
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To celebrate Black History Month, let’s shine a spotlight on this unsung groundbreaking woman. Biographical information was in short supply, but The New York Age, an African-American newspaper, featured Dr. Gertrude E. Curtis prominently in its society pages.

The New York Age masthead, circa 1912.

It was 1909 when Gertrude E. Curtis graduated from the College of Dental Surgery in Philadelphia. Dr. Curtis appears to have been raised in Bradford, New York, and practiced in New York City.

The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader for January 20, 1910 stated she also passed the final examination at the College of Dental Surgery in Philadelphia.

The listing for Thursday, February 3, 1910, printed the photo shown at top, along with a brief article recognizing her appointment to practice at the well-known institution, Bellevue Hospital:

“Dr. Gertrude E. Curtis, of 471 Lennox Avenue, has been appointed in charge of the dental clinic on Monday afternoon at the Bellevue Hospital.”

Dr. Curtis believed very strongly in dentistry as a suitable profession for women and was documented as an advocating for others, as referenced below.

“She passed the final examination in the College of Dental Surgery in Philadelphia, with high honors and intends to begin active practice without delay. She believes dentistry is one of the best professions for women.”

According to a recent article in the Olean Times Herald, post graduation, Dr. Curtis began a dental practice in Harlem and continued on into the 1930s.

Read more about her career success and marriage to an African-American composer, lyricist and music publisher who rose to fame during the Harlem Renaissance: Click here.