Suffragist Flora Dunlap

Feb 25, 2020  | 2 min 25 sec  | Ep 2020

Before she became involved in the suffrage movement, Flora Dunlap was a settlement house worker, but was perhaps best known for directing the 1916 suffrage referendum campaign.


Before becoming involved in the Women’s Suffrage Movement, Flora Dunlap was a settlement house worker. She moved to Des Moines from Ohio in 1904 to work as head resident of the Roadside Settlement House. Dunlap served on many social welfare boards, and in 1912, became the first woman to ever serve on the Des Moines school board.

She was elected president of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association in 1913. Dunlap 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. She wanted to ensure that every voter in every town would be reached, so she strategized a statewide automobile speaking tour, while also distributing over 5 million pieces of propaganda, saying, “Iowa should be strewn knee deep with literature.”

Despite the well-organized and well-financed campaign, the Woman Suffrage Amendment was defeated by 10, 341 votes which left Dunlap heartbroken. She took a brief break from suffrage work before returning as the first president of the Iowa League of Women Voters in 1919.