Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Fannie Dunn Quain, 1874-1950

By Siri Bergsgaard, Undergraduate, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, N.D.; Beth Twomey, Librarian, North Dakota State University

First female doctor in North Dakota, activist in the suffrage movement

Fannie Dunn Quain was born Fannie Almara Dunn December 13, 1874 in Bismarck Dakota Territory to pharmacist John Platt Dunn II and dressmaker Christina Dunn. Her father opened the first drug store in North Dakota and was also elected mayor of Bismarck in 1884. She attended the St. Cloud Normal School where she earned a teaching certificate. She attended the University of Michigan Medical School and completed her doctor of medicine degree in 1898. She was the first North Dakotan to graduate from medical school.

She met her husband, Dr. Eric Peer Quain, a surgeon, in the operating room of St. Alexius Hospital. They married in 1903 and later moved to Bismarck, N.D. Together, Eric and Fannie had two children: a son, Buell, and a daughter, Marion. Buell, a promising anthropologist, died in 1939 in Brazil at the age of 23. His death was ruled a suicide.

Dr. Quain specialized in diseases of the ear and eye. However, tuberculosis soon became her main concern as it was responsible for 10% of all illnesses in the state by 1907. She lobbied to create the first tuberculosis sanitarium and in 1909 she co-founded the North Dakota Tuberculosis Association which later became the Lung Association of North Dakota. She also worked to improve the standards of nurse training in the state and was a member of the state board for the national Red Cross, serving as secretary. Dr. Quain was well aware of the challenges female doctors faced in North Dakota and elsewhere and was involved with the Medical Women's Association. She was also an active member of the General Federation of Women's clubs where she was involved with groups engaged with suffrage and women and children's health.

Dr. Quain was a member of the North Dakota State Suffrage association and led its Legislative Committee from at least 1913 to 1917. She was out on the floor of the state senate with other prominent leaders of the State Suffrage league when a vote was held on a suffrage measure which passed the senate but was later rejected by voters. She was held in high enough esteem to be considered a candidate to succeed Mrs. Clara Darrow as head of the Votes for Women League of North Dakota in 1915. She was a part of the delegation that was present when the Governor Kraabel signed the limited suffrage measures into law in July of 1917.


"Burke Heads List: Red Cross Officers Are Appointed for North Dakota," The Ward County Independent, September 8, 2010

"Changing the Face of Medicine: Fannie Almara Quain," U.S. National Library of Medicine, October 14, 2003.

"Club Women Hear Reports on Great Chicago Meeting," Bismarck Daily Tribune, Bismarck, N.D. July 18, 1914, p. 1.

Eriksmoen, Curt. "Dunn Family Brought Many Firsts to Are,." Edited by Jan Eriksmoen. West Fargo Pioneer, March 06, 2005.

"Mrs. Quain May Head League," Bismarck Daily Tribune, Bismarck, N.D., May 15, 1915

"State Suffrage President Names Committee Chairman," Bismarck Daily Tribune, Bismarck, N.D. November 19, 1916, pg. 4

Year: 1940; Census Place: Bismarck, Burleigh, North Dakota; Roll: m-t0627-02995; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 8-5B

Year: 1920; Census Place: Bismarck Ward 3, Burleigh, North Dakota; Roll: T625_1331; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 62

Year: 1920; Census Place: Bismarck Ward 3, Burleigh, North Dakota; Roll: T625_1331; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 62

"U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012"; Yearbook Title: Prairie Breezes 1928; Year: 1928

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