LINDSAY, Lilian (1871-1960)
Plaque erected in 2013 by English Heritage at 3 Hungerford Road, Holloway, London, N7 9LA, London Borough of Islington
LILIAN LINDSAY 1871-1960 The First Woman Dentist to Qualify in Britain lived here
Lilian Lindsay was the first British woman to qualify as a dentist and the first person in Britain to write at length about the history of her chosen profession.
Hungerford Road in Lower Holloway provided the backdrop for the formative years of Lindsay’s life and career. Having been born at a house at the other end of the road, she lived at number 3 from 1872.
A bright child, she was educated locally at Camden School for Girls and won a scholarship to study at the North London Collegiate School, where her headmistress was Frances Mary Buss. She defied Buss’s advice to train as a teacher for the deaf and dumb and decided instead to become a dentist.
BECOMING A DENTIST
Lindsay had not chosen an easy career path. The Royal College of Surgeons refused to admit women to its medical courses, and when she applied to study at the National Dental Hospital in London, she was interviewed on the pavement outside – women were not allowed to enter the building. Her application was rejected.
Thwarted in England, she left in 1892 to study at Edinburgh Dental Hospital and School. It was there that she met her future husband, Robert Lindsay, a fellow student. Qualifying with honours in 1895, she returned to London to set up her commercially successful dental practice at 69 Hornsey Rise in Upper Holloway – a bus ride from her childhood home. After she and Robert were married in 1905 – at the local church, St Luke’s, in Hillmarton Road – she moved to Edinburgh to set up in practice with her husband.
In 1920 the Lindsays retired and moved back to London, where Lilian gathered together the country’s first dental library in her new role as Honorary Librarian at the British Dental Association (BDA). Located at the association’s headquarters in Russell Square, the library became a resource for both students and practitioners and over the next 30 years she expanded it from an initial bequest of 350 works to over 10,000 volumes.
At the same time Lindsay became the first dentist in Britain to take a serious interest in the history of dentistry, writing over 50 journal articles and a book, A Short History of Dentistry (1933), and in 1946 publishing the first English language translation of the classic text by Pierre Fauchard, Le Chirurgien Dentiste (‘The Dental Surgeon’). Her devotion to her research can be measured by her decision to remain in London during the Blitz, saying she could not work away from the library.
Lindsay became the first female President of the BDA in 1946, and in the same year was awarded an OBE. She spent her final years in Orford, Suffolk, and died in 1960 at the age of 88.