Biographical Sketch of Nancy Jane "Nannie" Davis Dunkin

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Nancy Jane "Nannie" Davis Dunkin (also sometimes Duncan), 1875-1954

By Amanda Ritter-Maggio, English instructor, University of Arkansas at Hope-Texarkana

Nancy Jane "Nannie" Davis was born in Champaign, Illinois to Thomas J. and Susan Jane Harper Davis. Her father was a farmer and land developer who held several local municipal and school board offices and served as the county tax collector. Her siblings included sister Frances and brothers Charlie and Thomas.

Nannie married William Van Dunkin on June 29, 1898 in Champaign, Illinois. W.V., as he was known, was the son of Van Meter and Agnes Wagner Dunkin. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois and worked as a draftsman, farm implement inspector, and university professor. The couple lived in Urbana, Moline, and Champaign, Illinois and welcomed two sons, Van Davis, born in 1899; and William Thomas, born in 1907.

W.V. and Nannie were active in the Methodist church; W.V. was a Sunday-school superintendent, and Nannie participated in numerous ladies' clubs and organizations. She was a frequent singer and speaker at Sunday-school graduation ceremonies. Nannie was also a member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union in Urbana, hosting meetings and giving talks.

In the summer of 1918, the Dunkins moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where W.V. was hired as a professor at the Georgia School of Technology (now Georgia Tech). Nannie's friends in Urbana held two going-away parties in her honor, both of which were chronicled in the local newspapers. City directories and city census documents from the late 1910s suggest that the family maintained at least a part-time residence in Illinois, and the 1920 census finds W.V. working as a draftsman in a Rock Island, IL implement factory. The family's surname is sometimes spelled "Duncan" in official records.

In Atlanta, Nannie was a member of the Georgia Tech Woman's Club and the Ponce de Leon Methodist Church. Both her sons attended Georgia Tech; William later graduated from Yale and worked in New Jersey.

As detailed in The History of Woman Suffrage, vol.VI, after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, Atlanta women "decided to make a test and see if women could not vote in the primary on September 8, as the returned soldiers [from World War I] who did not reach Georgia before May were allowed to vote in all elections without registering." After the Georgia state Democratic Executive Committee declined to allow women to register to vote, Nannie, along with three other women, "called on the tax collector and asked to be allowed to pay their State and county taxes and to register. They were sent to the chairman of the Registration Committee and he also refused to enroll their names. Then they went to the polls on September 8 and were told, 'No women voting here.'"

In the remaining decades of her life, Nannie continued to participate in church and university functions and ladies' organizations. She died on December 20, 1954 in Atlanta, and is buried near her husband and son William in Westview Cemetery.

Sources: U.S., School Catalogs, 1765-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.

Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 26 January 2021), memorial page for Nancy Davis Dunkin (14 May 1875-20 Dec 1954), Find a Grave Memorial no. 181764733, citing Westview Cemetery, Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, USA ; Maintained by lsunll (contributor 49270021) .

The History of Woman Suffrage vol. VI. Ed. Ida Husted Harper. New York: Little and Ives, 1922. [LINK to GA state report]

"Illinois, County Marriages, 1810-1940," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 3 March 2016), 0338047 (004539312) > image 143 of 814; county offices, Illinois.

"Mrs. W.V. Dunkin. [Obituary]" The Constitution [Atlanta, GA], 21 December 1954.,

"Society." The Dispatch [Moline, IL], 25 July 1918.,

"Thomas J. Davis." Portrait and Biographical Album of Champaign, Illinois. Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887.,

"United States Census, 1910." Database with images. FamilySearch. : 26 January 2021. Citing NARA microfilm publication T624. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.

"United States Census, 1920." Database with images. FamilySearch. : 26 January 2021. Citing NARA microfilm publication T626. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002.

"W.C.T.U. Hears Good Reports." Urbana Courier-Herald, 26 November 1910.,

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