Ida Gray Nelson Rollins: First Black Woman Dentist in Chicago
   
Ida NelsonAfrican-American dentist Ida Gray Nelson Rollins was born February 20, 1867, in Clarksville, Tennessee; at an early age she and her parents moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. She attended Gaines Public High School in Cincinnati, graduating in 1887. She entered the University of Michigan Dental School and received her DDS degree in 1890. At this time Gray became the first Black woman in America to earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery Degree. She returned to Cincinnati where she established a very successful private practice.

It was reported that a newspaper editor said of Dr. Gray, "her blushing, winning ways makes you feel like finding an extra tooth anyway to allow her to pull." In 1895, Gray married James S. Nelson, and they moved to Chicago, where she spent the rest of her life. Her husband, a Spanish-American and World War I veteran, died in 1926; she remarried in 1929 to become Mrs. William A. Rollins, but was better known as Dr. Ida N. Rollins. She was also the first Black woman to practice dentistry in Chicago and mentored other African-American women into the profession.

She became active in several Chicago women's organizations, and she was often singled out as an example of what Black women could accomplish. She died on May 3, 1953.

Reference:
Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia
Darlene Clark Hine, editor
Brooklyn, New York: Carlson Publishing, Inc., 1993