Anna Burmeister was one of the first female dentists in Wisconsin. She was born on a farm in Wisconsin in 1876 to German immigrants William and Sophia (Mueller) Burmeister. At first she became a dressmaker and had a business with her sister Elsie, who was a hat maker.
At the Wisconsin State Fair, in 1894, Anna Burmeister’s Pineapple Log Cabin Quilt won first place in its division and she received $4.00 as the prize. That quilt is now displayed in Lincoln, Nebraska at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum.
In 1900, the U.S. Census Bureau lists Anna and her sister Elsie living in Waukesha, Wisconsin at a rental property at 613 Clinton Street. Anna was said to be born in September of 1876 on that census and her sister Elsie in October of 1882. She was working as a dress maker and her sister was working as a milliner.
Anna was living in Waukesha in June of 1905 with her sister Elsie and 20 year old Edward Burmeister, who was working as a salesman. She went to work for Marshall Fields Department Store in Chicago as a dressmaker in 1905. It was there that she decided to become a dentist and left Chicago for Milwaukee.
Anna Burmeister graduated from Marquette University Dental School in 1912. In 1912 there were 52 dental colleges in the United States with 7,190 students, according to the Scientific American Reference Book of 1915. Undergraduate students were broken down between male and female students. At the professional level they did not bother to do this which meant a female in a dental college was a rare occurrence in the early 1900’s. An article about Anna Burmeister appeared in the Milwaukee Journal on May 26, 1912. There was a quote from her in it:
“It has been hard work. The money didn’t come easy and my course took a lot. But I did no more than other girls have done and can do. All that is required is the determination. I made up my mind to get my dental degree and I went after it with all the power in me.” – dentist Anna Burmeister.
Her dental practice was located at 715 Greenfield Avenue in Milwaukee, according to the Polk Dental Directory in 1914. Her mother Sophia Burmeister died in Waukesha County in 1918. Anna was appointed by her mother as executor of her mother’s will, even though there were at least was 10 children in the family. One of Anna’s brothers named George shot her other brother Emil in a dispute over land in July of 1913. Anna was probably the best choice for executor of her mother’s will. Anna’s father William died in 1919.
An article about the National Dental Sorority in the Journal of the American Dental Association (Vol. 8) states that Anna Burmeister of Milwaukee, Wisconsin was one of the founding members. The Sorority was founded on August 18, 1921 in Milwaukee. The other women founders were Josephine D. Pfiefer of Chicago; Celia Rich of Nashville, TN; Katherine Prathers of Chicago; Mae Fontaine of Los Angeles, CA; Helen Addenbrooke of Milwaukee; Kate A. Dohrety of Milwaukee; Mary Hastings of Oshkosh; Vida A. Lathom of Chicago; M. Evangeline Jordan of Los Angeles, CA and Minnie Proctor of Los Angeles, CA. This is now known as the American Association of Women Dentists and is located in Pensacola, Florida. Anna Burmeister’s name can be found on the page about the founding members and the history of the organization.
The 1930 U.S. Census has Anna Burmeister living at 253 29th Street in Milwaukee. There 20 people listed as living in the same house at that address. Her sister Elsie Dieman was also living in the house with her.
In 1940 she was living at 941 N. 25th Street in Milwaukee and her occupation was listed as dentist. Her widowed sister named Elsie Dittmer was living with her and her occupation was given as sewing. Elsie’s children and a boarder were also living in the household as well as a 51 year old boarder named Arthur Brennerman who worked as a laborer.
Dr. Anna Burmeister was mentioned in the obituaries of her siblings and her mother. Aside from her sister Elsie Burmeister Diema, Anna had another sister named Elizabeth Kimper and another one named Clara. She also had six brothers named George, Charles, William, Ernest, Edward and Fred.
Anna Burmeister died in 1959 and is buried in Good Hope Cemetery in Greenfield, Wisconsin.
No photo of Dr. Anna Burmeister could be located for this story. Please contact the author if you have a photo of Anna Burmeister.