Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Minora Dunlap Phillis, 1859-1920
By Hope Smalley, undergraduate, Rosemont College and Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, SUNY Binghamton
Minora F. Dunlap was born in Pennsylvania in September 1859 to Margaret Dunlap and James Dunlap. In 1883, she married William H. Phillis, a salesman. The two had three children named Florence, Howard, and Janet.
The 1900 census for Pittsburgh listed the Phillis household, which included Minora's widowed mother. Her husband was listed as a dry goods merchant.
Our first reference to Phillis's suffrage work comes from a report in January 1905 that the Allegheny County Equal Rights Association nominated five women to run as school directors in Pittsburgh. Mrs. Minora Phillis was nominated for the 22nd ward. Women in Pittsburgh had secured the right to vote for school directors, though they did not at this date have broader suffrage rights. This article notes that Phillis was vice president of the Allegheny County Equal Rights Association and summarized her motivation for seeking this office: "Mrs. Phillis thinks that women should be represented on school boards for the good of the children, as women naturally have a better understanding of their needs." Phillis did not expect to win, but thought her candidacy "may help pave the way for the women who will follow her."
Phillis served to connect western Pennsylvania with the broader woman suffrage movement. Of a March 1907 meeting of the Civic Club in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Press reported: "Mrs. Gray and Mrs. Minora Phillis read reports from the national suffrage convention held at Baltimore." This would have been the February national meeting of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). We also learn that Phillis headed up the club's educational department.
She also attended the 1908 annual meeting of NAWSA and in 1908 she was elected first auditor of the Pennsylvania State Woman Suffrage Association. In March 1909 Minora Phillips spoke to the Allegheny Country Equal Rights Association on the topic of "laws of Pennsylvania affecting women and children."
She died in 1920 and is buried in Grove Cemetery in New Brighton, Pennsylvania.
"Suffrage Association Is Putting Several in the Field," Pittsburgh Daily Post, 22 Jan. 1905, p. 24.
"Civic Club Meets," Pittsburgh Press, 8 March 1906, p. 9.
"Equal Rights Association." Pittsburgh Daily Post, 3 February 1907, p. 34. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/86387825/?terms=%22Minora%2BPhillis%22.
"Women's Club of Sheraden." Pittsburgh Daily Post, 14 March 1909, p. 13. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/86420112/?terms=%22Minora%2BPhillis%22.
"Allegheny County Equal Rights Association," Pittsburgh Daily Post, 21 March 1909, p. 28.
"Woman's Suffrage." Pittsburgh Daily Post, 15 November 1908, p. 22. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/86408813/?terms=%22Minora%2BPhillis%22
Minora Phillis death record, Find-a-Grave.com.
Federal Manuscript Census, Pittsburgh, PA, 1900. Entry for household of William and Minora Phillis. Accessed online via Ancestry Library Edition.