Dr. Jessie G. Garnett was the first African American female dentist in Boston, Massachusetts. She practiced for 50 years until 1970.
Garnett was born in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, in 1897. Her father died while she was still in her youth and her mother worked as a seamstress. By the age of eleven, her mother had packed the family and relocated to Roxbury in Boston.
After graduating high school, Garnett attended Tufts University and then the University’s School of Dental Medicine. In 1920, she was the first black woman to graduate from Tufts Dental School and the only woman in her graduating class. Garnett opened her own practice in Lower Roxbury and business was slow at first but gradually picked up and she worked in the profession until arthritis in her hands made it too difficult.
Garnett co-founded the Psi Omega chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority in 1926. She was a member of the NAACP and the Urban League and served on the boards of the Boston YWCA and the Freedom House.