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Gillette Hayden: Who Was She?

May 1, 2006
Who was Gillette Hayden, and what’s this memorial fund all about?

Who was Gillette Hayden, and what’s this memorial fund all about?

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By now, you have received and paid last year’s AAWD dues. Perhaps you saw the notation on the form for a voluntary donation to some memorial fund to someone named Gillette Hayden. Of course, you simply passed it over because you have never heard of this person. Perhaps a brief introduction into the history behind this fund and the woman it honors will increase your pride in AAWD even further.

Dr. Gillette Hayden, a 1902 graduate of Ohio State University, served as AAWD’s third president. Devoted to the advancement of periodontia in dental practice, she founded the American Academy of Periodontology in 1914, along with Dr. Grace R. Spaulding, AAWD’s sixth president. Dr. Hayden served as the second president of AAP and was the second person to receive the Academy fellowship. After her untimely death in 1929, AAWD established a loan fund, the Gillette Hayden Memorial Foundation, to aid promising women dental students. The AAP dedicated its Journal to her memory, “The present status of periodontia is largely due to her vision and unceasing labors … Few have made more notable contributions to its progress and no one was ever more interested in its success or gave it a more unselfish service.”

Now I’ll tell you a little about Gillette Hayden, the woman. She was described by Dr. Mildred Dickerson, past president of AAWD, during our 50th Anniversary Banquet as having been the soul of our Association in its early years. She was an inspiration to all who knew her. She inherited her activism and her humanitarianism from her mother, a feminist in those difficult days when women were first seeking a status higher than that of chattel. Her great-grandfather, Dr. Horace Hayden, along with Dr. S.S. Harris, was one of the two founders of the first chartered dental college in the world, the Baltimore School of Dental Surgery, now the Dental College of the University of Maryland.

Dr. Hayden was a professional woman of the highest order. She dignified dentistry and was proud of her profession. Her skill level and love of humanity gave her an extremely successful clinical practice, with patients calling her their “best friend” after her death.

She did not confine her interests to dentistry, but was a pioneer in many movements for the betterment of women. She was active in many civic organizations and business groups. During the years when American women were seeking the right to vote, Dr. Hayden continued the feminist activities of her own pioneer suffragette mother. When the amendment of the U.S. Constitution providing universal women’s suffrage was yet to be ratified by her own state of Ohio, Dr. Hayden turned over her office to representatives from the National Women’s Party so they would have an area in which to work and lobby members of the Ohio Legislature for ratification. The autumn of 1920, the Amendment was ratified by the Ohio Legislature and by three-fourths of the states ... and women had the right to vote.

Dr. Hayden’s early death in 1929 left the AAWD members unanimously wanting to do something to keep the memory of this vivacious member alive forever. So, at the 1930 annual meeting in Denver, Colo., with Dr. Mildred Dickerson as president, the Gillette Hayden Fund was born. Two hundred dollars was taken from the AAWD treasury to start the fund, and each succeeding president urged members to make voluntary contributions. Loans would be made to women dental students in their junior or senior years. The first loan was made to Helen Hayes Harmon, a junior at the University of Michigan. Dr. Harmon graduated in 1935, became an AAWD member, built a successful practice in Grand Rapids, and promptly repaid her loan.

In the 1960s, the Internal Revenue Service advised us to separate the Gillette Hayden Fund from the AAWD. It is now the Gillette Hayden Memorial Fund. The monies are managed by trustees who must be AAWD members. They are selected by a Trustee Selection Committee which is appointed by the current AAWD president. Although the trustees oversee the monies, they do not actively pursue students to apply for loans. Their job is more along the lines of making sure the fund remains solvent, drawing the best interest rate, and being repaid. The trustees are usually past presidents of AAWD, have a long-term interest and understanding of our history, and are willing to put in the hours necessary to protect this memorial to our founding mother. A third committee exists which does a large part of the yearly work of the fund, the Gillette Hayden Advisory Committee. This committee notifies dental schools and students of the availability of the monies, receives and processes loan applications, and makes selections as to which individuals should receive the loans. The chairwoman of the Advisory Committee then sends these names and applications to the trustees for final approval.

I know this is lengthy, but once I started writing about this woman and her memorial fund, my fingers just wouldn’t stop typing. I hope I have encouraged a few of you to also delve into our roots.

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Mary E. Martin, DDS