Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Flora Dunlap, 1872-1952

By Susan R. Cloud, Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, Iowa State University, and Danielle Giles, undergraduate student, Iowa State University

Flora Dunlap (February 27, 1872 - August 26, 1952) of Des Moines, Iowa, was a settlement house worker and social reformer, as well as a three-term president of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association and the first president of the Iowa League of Women Voters.

Dunlap was born in 1872 near Circleville, Ohio. She graduated from Cincinnati (Ohio) Wesleyan College. After graduation, she served a year as a volunteer worker at Kingsley House settlement in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She spent a winter at Goodrich House in Cleveland, Ohio, and then became a resident at Hull House in Chicago, Illinois, working with Jane Addams.

Dunlap moved to Des Moines in 1904 to head the Roadside Settlement House. In 1912, she became the first woman elected to the Des Moines School Board, but did not run for a second term in 1915, describing her service as "the most unpleasant and most futile task" because the male members of the board had ignored her. Dunlap also served as legislative chair of the Iowa Federation of Women's Clubs from 1913-15.

From 1913-16, Dunlap served as president of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association. In September 1913, she participated in a two-week automobile tour across the state, with meetings in thirty towns. Governor George W. Clark and Harvey Ingham, editor of the Des Moines Register, a long-time supporter of woman suffrage, spoke at the first meeting and other prominent men, officials, editors and clergymen joined the tour for one or more days. The tour was also covered by two reporters from Des Moines newspapers. Dunlap also led the 1916 referendum campaign to amend the state constitution to give Iowa women the right to vote.

In 1916, Dunlap left Roadside Settlement to head the Neighborhood Guild House in Brooklyn, New York. In 1917 and 1918 she was the regional director of the girls division of the War Camp Community Service. She returned to Roadside Settlement in 1918 and remained the head resident until 1924, when she resigned but continued her involvement as an active board member until 1943.

In October 1919, Dunlap was elected as the first president of the Iowa League of Women Voters. She was elected head of the Polk County Women's Democratic Club in 1922 and 1940. From 1924 to 1930, she lived in Circleville, Ohio. After returning to Des Moines, she held several positions: member of the Polk County Social Welfare Board (the first woman to hold the position), member of the Community Chest board of directors (1932-38), member of the Polk County emergency relief committee, head of the Polk County women's division of the Works Progress Administration (1933-43), member of a state committee to study social welfare legislation for Iowa (1936), and member of a committee to draft social welfare bills for the state.

Dunlap moved to Columbus, Ohio, in 1943, and died there on August 26, 1952.


Denny, Robert R. Bicentennial Reflections: The History of the Des Moines Public Schools.

National American Woman's Suffrage Association. The History of Women's Suffrage, volume 6. [LINK]

Mason, Karen M. "Dunlap, Flora" The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009. Web. 14 September 2017.

University of Iowa. Women's Suffrage in Iowa Digital Collection, Iowa's Suffrage Scrapbook, 1854-1920.

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