Today is International Women’s Day and we recognize the first licensed female optometrist in the US. In 1899, Gertrude Stanton (1863-1931), of Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 1898, she became a charter member of the American Association of Opticians, which later became the American Optometric Association.
A native of Iowa, Stanton began her career as a teacher but eventually moved to Minnesota where she received training and began to work as an itinerant refracting optician or optometrist, building her professional reputation.
In 1901, shortly after the passage of the first optometry licensure law in Minnesota, Stanton applied for and received a license. Stanton went on to become an in-store optometrist at Dayton’s Department Store and eventually set up her own storefront where she employed her daughter and ran an optical business run entirely by women.
During her career, she participated in optometry and professional associations and public service projects and was active in her community.
Stanton’s abiding popularity with her patients and the public as well as her financial success despite leading an unconventional life for a woman at the turn of the twentieth century is a testament to her fierce independence, indomitable spirit, and impressive business acumen.