Dental-Working Woman

Glen Innes’ Early Female Dentist

Growing up, it might have seemed unlikely that Loo Loo Ruth Amesbury (1885-1961) could truly follow in her father’s footsteps. After all, Edward Percy Amesbury (1842-1912) was the local dentist in the town of Glen Innes, on Ngoorabul country, and becoming an apprentice dentist was not what most would consider ‘women’s work’ at the time. In saying that, it wasn’t necessarily against the law.

Following legislation of the Dentist Act in 1901, regulations began to be enforced on the industry and the Dental Board of NSW was established to oversee the registration and regulation of dentists, dental assistants, and dental mechanics within the state. Just four years later, Loo Loo would go on to pass her assessment by the board and became one of only six female dentists in the entire state.

In a dental kit with dozens of implements, Loo Loo kept this tooth shade sampler, a tool which helped select denture colours. The acrylic teeth would have been matched against a patient’s existing teeth to ensure that the dentures could give them the most natural looking smile.

At the time, this shade sampler was top of the range. Unlike others that risked showing metal pins through thin acrylic or porcelain, this particular model was made true-to-colour by altering the mount.

In 1910, Loo Loo married St George Richard Gore and had five children. However, Loo Loo’s first love was her work and she continued practising into the 1950s, later working in Goondiwindi, Queensland. Along the way, she became living proof of how women could excel in male-dominated industries – all while keeping the Glen Innes community smiling.