Gertrude Stanton (1863-1931) The First Woman Licensed to Practice Optometry in the United States

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Viktoria Davis, O.D.
Lilien Vogl, O.D.


Dr. Ella Gertrude Smith Ayer Stanton Jones (1863-1931), better known as Gertrude Stanton, was the first woman licensed to practice optometry in the United States. 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 through clever marketing. In 1901, shortly after the passage of the first optometry licensure law in Minnesota, Stanton applied for and received a license by exemption. 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. Thrice married with three children, 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. This article, constructed from meticulous research in archival records, paints a detailed portrait of Stanton’s life and career as an optometric pioneer.


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How to Cite
Davis, V., & Vogl, L. (2019). Gertrude Stanton (1863-1931): The First Woman Licensed to Practice Optometry in the United States. Hindsight: Journal of Optometry History, 51(1), 5–10.
Author Biographies

Viktoria Davis, O.D., Madelia Optometric, Inc.

Dr. Davis is a longtime member of The Optometric Historical Society and contributor to Hindsight. She grew up in Novato, California and graduated from Novato High School. She attended Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota and graduated magna cum laude with a degree in biology. Dr. Davis received her Doctor of Optometry degree with honors in 1999 from Pacific University College of Optometry in Forest Grove, Oregon. She also completed an internship in pediatric eye care at the Children's Eye Doctors in Redmond, Washington. Dr. Davis was named the "Minnesota Young Optometrist of the Year" by the Minnesota Optometric Association in 2005. She and her husband Steve live in Madelia and have two children, Katharine and Karl. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, sewing, and dancing with the Mankato Ballet.

Lilien Vogl, O.D., Northwest Valley Eyecare

Dr. Lilien Vogl, O.D., F.A.A.O. of Phoenix Arizona is the current chair of The Optometric Historical Society. She has many years of practice in several different settings including - private associateship, corporate and education and understand the needs of optometrists in these settings. She was owner and creator of Vision Wellness.