Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Julia Church Dakin, 1841-1932

By Pat Schultz, Nora Springs, Iowa, retired educator, author of Amazing Women of Early Mason City

Julia May Church Dakin graduated from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Founded by Horace Mann in 1852, it was among the earliest co-educational colleges, and among the first to hire women faculty members and to offer African American students equal opportunities. To a graduating class, Mann said, "I beseech you to treasure up in your hearts these my parting words. Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity." These were words Julia would take very seriously.

Julia Church was born May 10, 1841, to Rev. Jesse and Julia Church. After living near Lake Erie in Pennsylvania, the family moved to Michigan where she married Dr. James Dakin in 1867, following his service during the Civil War. After living for a short time in Bloomington, in 1869, the couple had moved to Mason City, Iowa, likely drawn by the presence there of her sister Mary Church Emsley.

The Dakins were the parents of six children only two of whom survived to adulthood. After the loss of three in the year 1881, Julia formed the Monday Club as advised by Unitarian minister Lincoln Lloyd Jones, a long-time friend, as a way to ease her grief. She invited women to join, not to gossip or just socialize, but to seriously study topics like religion, philosophy, literature and history. She was a life-long Unitarian, holding offices at both the state and national level.

Julia Dakin and Carrie Lane Chapman Catt, subsequent suffrage leader, must have met through the Mason City schools in this period. Carrie worked there as a teacher and principal and then in 1883 became superintendent of Mason City schools, highly unusual for a woman at this time. Julie Dakin followed her as superintendent of the Cerro Gordo County schools in 1884-85. She made many trips to rural schools to help and encourage the teachers there as well as in the city. Carrie Lane married Leo Chapman in 1885 and left Mason City in 1886 to join her husband in San Francisco. Her husband died of typhoid fever and she returned in 1887 to work for woman suffrage, leading Julia and other women to circulate a petition urging the state legislature to pass a bill allowing women to vote in municipal elections. They secured the signatures of all but 12 local women. The bill, however, failed.

By 1896, Julia was completely committed to suffrage work. In 1902, she was president of the Women's Civic League, which the local newspaper noted was in deep discussion and work for women's suffrage. The club would later change its name to the Women's Equal Suffrage Club.

One of 50 delegates to the state convention of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association in 1907, Julia spoke on reasons women should have the vote. She was again elected as a delegate to the state convention in 1911 Julia also attended national suffrage conventions where she met and made friends with other women. In 1911, Julia was in Paris having dinner with a group of these ladies with whom she was going to the national British suffrage convention in London.

She was also in attendance at the state convention in 1915, the year Iowa's Equal Suffrage Club decided a more militant approach had become necessary. They planned to storm the legislature demanding the right to vote in municipal elections. In 1916, Julia welcomed Carrie Chapman Catt back to Mason City where she spoke in front of a packed house. Julia joined others at a private tea given in Catt's honor.

Julia died at age 90 in 1932. She had earned the praise afforded her in the obituary. "Coming to Mason City with her husband, Dr. J. B. Dakin, in 1869, she soon won for herself a large place in the confidence and affection of her fellow residents. She was an untiring worker in behalf of every movement for the welfare of the community. She founded the Monday Club. She was one of the original members of the board of trustees for the public library. She was prominent in work for the ballot for women. She was also identified with the cemetery association of Mason City. She was a friend of Jane Addams of Hull House fame. She was of the number of those who helped to launch Carrie Chapman Catt on her distinguished career."

Julia lived her life, meeting the challenge Horace Mann had given graduates of Antioch College: "to win some victory for humanity."


1."40 years ago." Mason City Globe Gazette, Oct. 18, 1955, p.18.,

2. Antioch College.

3. Dakin, Julia: census, birth and death records.

4. Dakin Julia. Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery, Mason City, Iowa.">

5. "EARLIER DAYS." Mason City Globe Gazette, June 30, 1931.

6. Julia Dakin obituary. Mason City Globe Gazette, 17 Sept. 1932, p. 12.

6. Mason City Globe Gazette, 9 Oct. 1902.

7. "Monday Club Grew Out of Bereavement." Mason City Globe Gazette, 16 June 1928, p.55.

8. "Monday Club Marks 75th Anniversary." Mason City Globe Gazette, 2 Apr. 1957.

9. "Now it Can Be Told." Mason City Globe Gazette, 10 Oct. 1931.

10. Wheeler, J.H. History of Cerro Gordo County, Iowa. Vol. II. Chicago-New York: Lewis Publishing Company, 1910.

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