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Gitlya Getselevna Klebanskaya, aka Jeanette Klebansky, was the prettiest girl in Slonim, Poland in 1900.

Jeanette Klebanskaya

She was also pretty smart.

In 1900, only 807 dentists practicing in the United States were women. No similar statistics are available for the former Russian Empire, where my grandmother Sophie and her sister were born. But on April 10, 1904, my great aunt Jeanette (who was then 21 years old) was granted a diploma that permitted her to practice dentistry. This document, written in Cyrillic, the Russian alphabet, states that Gitlya Getselevna Klebanskaya has completed a course of study at Yuryevna University and demonstrated mastery of dental techniques. In March of 1905, Jeanette left Russia for the United States.

Jeanette Klebanskaya's Dental Diploma, 1904

That certificate, however, was not good enough to allow Aunt Jeanette to practice dentistry in America. So Jeanette attended The Chicago College of Dental Surgery, the dental department of Valparaiso University, which was known as “the poor man’s Harvard.” She graduated in 1915, according to the Dental Cosmos. My grandma Sophie told me that Jeanette filled a cavity for her just after she arrived in Chicago in 1912. That filling was still intact when grandma proudly showed it to me in 1990, almost 80 years later.

Not only was Jeanette a dentist, but two of her sisters (Manya and Rosa) were pharmacists, her other sister (my grandmother) became the first woman bacteriologist, at the Chicago Board of health, and her brother Isaac was an ophthalmologist. Is it any wonder that I became an epidemiologist and medical writer with inspiring ancestors like them?

5 Responses to “Jeanette Klebanskaya, dentist — 1904”

  1. Wanda David says:

    Now we know where all of your wisdom and knowledge came from! This is so great!


  2. Alison says:

    Wow what a great story! I wish I knew this much about a lot of my ancestors. I’ve been doing some digging, but it stopped due to life getting in the way. Your post has inspired me to get it going again. Thanks.

    • Jane Neff Rollins says:

      Hi Alison,

      Thanks so much for commenting on my blog entry about my great-Aunt Jeanette. I’m glad if my post has inspired you to take up genealogy again. I know it’s a hobby that expands to take up more than the time you have for it, but it’s worth it!


  3. Maša says:

    interesting story, especially if we keep in mind how harder it was to be a woman at the turn of the century. the photograph is very beautiful.

    • Jane Neff Rollins says:

      Hi Masha,

      Thank you so much for your comment. Women certainly had fewer choices early in the 20th century, which is why I admired my great-aunt (and my grandmother, who became a bacteriologist) so much. As for the picture, Jeanette was considered the most beautiful girl in Slonim.

      Best regards,


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