Author: Emily Blobaum, Iowa PBS
Link to Iowa PBS feature on Flora: http://www.iowapbs.org/catt/story/35913/suffragist-flora-dunlap
Sources: SHSI- Des Moines
http://uipress.lib.uiowa.edu/bdi/DetailsPage.aspx?id=106 Woman Suffrage and Citizenship in the Midwest, by Sara Egge
Flora Dunlap was a prominent settlement house worker and social reform activist and brought forth a new wave of leadership to the Iowa suffrage movement.
Born in Ohio in 1872, she moved to Des Moines in 1904 after accepting an offer from Jane Addams, who was considered to be the mother of social work, to run a roadside settlement house. She oversaw construction of a three-story building at Seventh and Scott streets, considering it to be one of her greatest achievements.
Dunlap ran for the Des Moines School Board in 1912, and was the first woman ever to serve on the board. She didn’t run for re-election, complaining that her fellow male colleagues never listened to her opinions.
Dunlap was elected president of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association in 1913 at the annual convention in Boone. A Des Moines Register editorial published on October 11, 1913 read, “The newly elected president combines with a tactful disposition and perfect poise and self control…” She served as president of the IESA for three years, and directed the monumental 1916 suffrage referendum campaign, which was the only opportunity that Iowans would ever have to vote on the women’s suffrage issue. In doing so, she created a strategy for a statewide automobile tour and distributed over 5 million pieces of suffrage propaganda, saying “Iowa should be strewn knee deep with literature.”
While the campaign was well-organized and well-financed, the amendment was defeated by 10,341 votes, which left Dunlap heartbroken. She took a brief break from suffrage work before becoming the first president of the Iowa League of Women Voters in 1919, where she served until 1921.
Dunlap also served on several other boards and committees, including the Polk County Emergency Relief Committee and the Polk County Social Welfare Board.
She died in 1952.