Dr. Mary Crutchfield Wright Thompson


Born in Henderson, North Carolina, to William and Lydia (Hatch) Crutchfield, Mary (1902-1985) grew up in The Port. The family worshipped at Union Baptist Church, and Mary attended the Boardman and Roberts grammar schools. She graduated from Cambridge High and Latin in 1925 and entered Tufts Dental School that fall, the only Black woman in her class; she waitressed to earn the tuition. Mary graduated in 1930, the school’s third Black female graduate and the first to practice in Boston.

Dr. Mary, as she became affectionally known, wanted to be a Cambridge school dentist, but only men could take the qualifying exam, and despite her degree, her first position was dental assistant. When the male-only requirement was dropped, Mary aced the exam and went to work as a full-fledged dentist. She had already established a low-cost pediatric dental clinic in the family home at 181 Windsor Street for which she was awarded Special Recognition for Outstanding Community Service by the Press Club of Boston.

In 1948 Mary married Oscar (Tom) Thompson. In 1953 they moved to Natick, where they helped establish the NAACP’s South Middlesex branch and founded the Natick Fair Housing Practices Committee. In 1950 the couple traveled to Africa to celebrate Nigerian Independence Day. The trip so inspired Dr. Mary that she created a scholarship for students in Nigeria in her mother’s memory.

At Tufts, Mary had joined Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and remained committed: she often provided free dental care at the sorority’s Mississippi Health Project and was later elected chapter president and northeast regional director. In 1976 the sorority founded a scholarship in her name for Black female dental students at Tufts.