Loula Friend Dunn (1896-1977)

Miss Loula Friend Dunn was one of the most significant and influential figures in the field of public welfare ever produced by the State of Alabama. The Clarke County native left her mark on state, national, and even international welfare programs over a span of more than 40 years.

Loula Friend Dunn

Miss Dunn, who attended Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) and the university of North Carolina, taught public school in her home town of Grove Hill early in her career. She began her social work career as a caseworker with the Alabama Child Welfare Department (forerunner of what was to become the State Department of Public Welfare and the the State Department of Pensions and Security) in 1923. She rose to become Assistant Director of that agency before taking the position of Director of the Social Services Division of the Alabama Relief Administration in 1933. She later became an administrator of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, which was later called the Works Progress Administration (WPA). During her service with this federal agency, she was based in New Orleans and was responsible for the administration of social work and employment programs for six southern states.

From 1937 to 1948, she served as Commissioner of Public Welfare in Alabama. While serving in this position, she pioneered several innovations, including planning a system for centralized financing, installing merit provisions prior to the creation of the State Merit System, and devising bold, experimental programs. While serving as the state's Commissioner of Public Welfare, she was also appointed an advisor by the War Department to assist in the formation of the Woman's Army Corps, and was active as a member of the Alabama State Recruiting Committee for the Woman's Reserve of the United States Navy.

She resigned as Commissioner in 1948 to become Executive Director of the American Public Welfare Association (APWA). On the occasion of her resignation as Commissioner, she was universally lauded - by the state press, her associates, and public officials - for the excellence and dedication of her public service.

Miss Dunn was the APWA's first woman executive. From 1948 until her retirement in 1964, she played a key role in bringing together social welfare leaders from all over the country to help study and draft legislation establishing many federally funded social welfare programs. She influenced many, and during her long career she maintained close associations with such public figures as Eleanor Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Nelson Rockefeller.



“Alabama’s Welfare head on Board for WAAC Applicants.” Birmingham News, 1 July 1942.

“APWA Mourns Death of Loula Dunn.” Washington Report 12 (August 1972): 3.

“Bigger Old Age Pension Asked by Dunn.” Montgomery Advertiser, 9 May 1939.

Brannen, Lynne. “Clarke County Woman Gains National Prominence.” Mobile Press, 25 May 1946.

“Charming Lady Stays On.” Birmingham News, 19 July 1942.

“The Commissioner in Great Britain.” Alabama Social Welfare 8 (May 1943): 122.

Current Biography 1951. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1952, 175-176.

Dunn, Loula. “Current Issues, Trends, and Challenges in Social Welfare.” Alabama Social Welfare 27 (May/June 1962): 3.

“Loula Dunn.” Alabama Social Welfare 42. (September 1977): 4.

“Loula Dunn Talents Recognized.” Alabama Journal, 29 June 1950.

“Loula F. Dunn.” Look (September 15, 1950): 21.

“Loula F. Dunn, Past Director of Public Welfare Group, Dies.” Washington Post, 30 June 1977, C14.

“Magazine (Look) Lauds Loula F. Dunn.” Alabama Journal, 29 June 1950.

“State Receives Grant for Child Day Care.” Montgomery Advertiser, 7 November 1942.

Swain, Martha H. “Loula Friend Dunn,” in Biographical Dictionary of Social Welfare in America, 259-262. Edited by Walter I. Trattner. New York: Greenwood Press, 1986.

Taylor, Fred. “Welfare Department Has Plan to Increase Aid to Alabama Aged.” Birmingham News, 19 March 1943.

“War on Miss Dunn.” Montgomery Advertiser, 25 November 1942.

“Welfare Director Gets Going Away Gifts.” Birmingham News, 16 September 1949.

“What Others Think of Loula Dunn.” Mobile Press, 22 July 1949.

“Why Not Make It Loula Dunn?” Birmingham News, 30 June 1949.


Past Inductees
Alabama Women's Hall of Fame
Judson College

© 2005 Alabama Women's Hall of Fame