Biographical Database of Montana Woman Suffragists

Biography of Marie Gillen Matheson, 1849-1928

By Babe Nash and Grace Iverson, student researchers, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana

Suffragist; temperance advocate

Marie Gillen was born in Canada in February 1849 to Ireland-born parents. She married Walter Matheson in 1874 and immigrated to the United States in 1882. Her husband was born in Canada in 1848 to Scotland-born parents. Marie and Walter were 25 and 26, respectively, at the time of their wedding. They had four children, all of whom survived childhood. Upon her arrival in the United States, Marie Matheson could read, write, and speak English. She had at least one sister who still lived in Canada, who would visit her frequently in Montana.

Once in the United States, Marie and Walter Matheson moved to Helena, Montana, where Walter drummed up business as a prominent real estate agent. Marie quickly became involved in the suffrage movement. She was a delegate to the first convention for the Montana Woman Suffrage Association held in Helena September 2-3, 1895. Ten years later, in 1905, she testified in the Montana House of Representatives in support of House Bill 77, which would have granted woman suffrage.

Marie Matheson was an active member of the Congregational Church. She was also involved with the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), which met in Livingston in September 1890. The WCTU supported prohibition, suffrage, and other social reforms. Matheson also was a supporter of education, presenting on teaching methods for United States history during a meeting of the Teacher's Institute in Billings in 1883.

Matheson died in February 1928. She was buried in Brantford, Canada alonside her husband, who had died six years earlier.


1900 United States Federal Census,, accessed February 23, 2018.

Barry, Glenda. "Mary Gillen Matheson." Find A Grave. Last modified October 7, 2014.

Beeswing. "Social Chit Chat." Helena Independent (Helena, Montana), July 7, 1889, p.6. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

Harper, Ida Husted, ed. "Montana." Chapter XXV in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920. New York, NY: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, pp. 360-367. [LINK]

Helena Board of Trade. Helena Illustrated. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Frank L. Thresher, 1890.

"Local News: Town Talk." Billings Herald (Billings, Montana), March 28, 1885, p.3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

Montana Woman Suffrage Association. Minutes of the First Convention of Montana Woman Suffrage Association, September 2-3, 1895. Bozeman, Montana: 1896. Montana Memory Project, Montana State Library.

"Personal and General." Helena Independent (Helena, Montana), September 7, 1890, p.2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

"Teachers Institute." Billings Herald (Billings, Montana), October 20, 1883, p.3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

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