Celebrating Women in Optometry: Gertrude Stanton

America’s First Woman Licensed Optometrist

By Derek Simon - March 6, 2024

Did you know that even after women earned the right to vote in most Western countries in the early 1900s, many courageous women continued taking steps towards equality and fighting oppression. Their work to break down barriers for future generations of women have allowed millions to pass through each day with less struggles. These celebrations, gatherings and many individual accomplishments are now recognized every March as Women’s History Month.

Dr. Gertrude Stanton - First Female Optometrist

Dr. Ella Gertrude Smith Ayer Stanton Jones, more commonly known as Gertrude Stanton, was the first woman licensed optometrist in the United States. Born and raised in Iowa, Stanton was a teacher, but moved to Minnesota where she started training to become an optometrist. In 1901, the first optometry licensure law in Minnesota was passed and Stanton applied for her license.

Stanton opened her optometry practice inside Dayton's Department Store in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As her business began to grow, she eventually got her own storefront where she employed her daughter to run the first woman-owned optometry practice in America.
During her career, she participated in optometry and professional associations and public service approximately 500 women licensed for optometry in 1912 and Stanton is the inspiration for this trend.  Today there are approximately 26,350 women licensed to practice optometry in the United States.
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