Remembering Tabitha Solomon,the first Indian woman dentist

About a year back when I just became a fresh graduate in Dental Surgery I read a fascinating story about Anandi Gopal Joshi, who became the first Indian woman to graduate with a degree in medicine in the United States. In the same year (1886)  Kadambini Ganguly and Chandramukhi Basu obtained the same degree in India and thus became the first two female graduates from India and the entire British Empire.

This piqued my interest in knowing about the first pioneer Indian woman in my field of study. So who was the first Indian woman to graduate with a degree in dentistry?

A quick search over the internet and talking to few people yielded absolutely nothing. Except for the fact that Fatima Jinnah, one of the founders of modern Pakistan and sister of  Muhammad Ali Jinnah was the first woman graduate in India, who obtained her degree from  Dr. R. Ahmed Dental College in the year 1923.

Though the country was undivided at the time of her graduation,this obviously didn’t satisfy my quest to find the first true Indian woman dental surgeon. So over the next few months I started doing my own research to find that elusive woman and to know her story. And after a lot of work and checking and cross checking references, finding sources, and talking to people who knew her, I bring you the fascinating unknown story of India’s first woman dentist- Dr. Tabitha Solomon.

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Dr. Tabitha Solomon in her younger days (c. 1926)

Born in 1901 in a Jewish family from Calcutta, she graduated from the Calcutta Dental College and Hospital in 1928. Founded by the legendary Dr. Rafiuddin Ahmed in 1920, Dr. Solomon was the first Indian female graduate of the college.

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Tabitha Solomon’s Dental Certification signed by Dr.R. Ahmed

At that time Jewish women were well-educated and played important roles in their families and in the community. Many were professionals and were highly trained in numerous fields. She assisted Dr. R. Ahmed with the Calcutta Dental Journal and started a dental clinic in the Chittarnjan Seva Sadan Hospital and also served in the Dufferin Hospital. She served in both these institutions in an honorary capacity. As a pioneer woman of her times Dr. Solomon served on several Jewish community committees including WIZO, Calcutta Jewish Association and also a multicultural Calcutta Women’s Committee.

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Dr.Tabitha Solomon- India’s first woman dentist (c. 1929)
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Dr.Solomon with her son (c. 1956)

This is the story of a woman far ahead of her time. A story forgotten but a woman worth remembering.

Note: This post would not have been possible without the support of Dr. Jael Silliman and Mr. Charles Solomon. All images used in this post are the exclusive property of Charles Solomon, and is not to be reproduced without prior permission.