Biographical Sketch of Matilda Reinhardt Elsas

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920

Biography of Mrs. Matilda Reinhardt Elsas, 1871-1942

By Hallie Borstel, historian

Matilda Reinhardt was born on December 4, 1871 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, the fourth child of German Jewish immigrants Isidore Reinhardt and Mary Simon. Isidore ran a dry goods store called "Reinhardt's Cheap Store" which opened a few years before Matilda's birth, around 1868. By 1884, the family had moved to Dallas, Texas, where Isidore ran a clothing and hat store and his oldest son, Sidney, served as bookkeeper.

In 1897, Matilda married Benjamin Elsas in the Red Room at Delmonico's in New York City. Benjamin, like Matilda, was the child of German Jewish immigrants. Like Matilda's father, Benjamin's father, Jacob Elsas, began his career as a merchant, though by the mid-1870s he was in manufacturing. He owned a cotton mill in Atlanta, Georgia that produced bags for flour and grain. Benjamin would take over this business from his father.

Matilda and Benjamin had two children: Richard, born in November 1900, and William Reinhardt, born in May 1905. Richard died at the age of 16 while in Boston, Massachusetts after an attack of epilepsy.

Matilda supported many causes throughout her life. From at least 1914-1915, she was active in the Atlanta suffrage movement, serving on the executive board of the Equal Suffrage Party of Georgia (formerly the Eighth Ward Equal Suffrage League). When the United States entered World War I, Matilda turned her attention to war work. She was a member of the entertainment committee of the war camp community service organization, on the War Work Council, and head of the Army and Navy Club. In these capacities she arranged events for members of the armed services and army nurses. At the same time, she was president of the local National League for Woman's Service and the second vice president of the City Federation of Women's Clubs. In 1921, she became the membership chair of the Atlanta League of Women Voters, where she served for at least two years. Later, she was named as one of the founders of this organization.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Matilda and Benjamin traveled internationally, to places such as England, France, Havana, Cuba, and Bremen, Germany.

Throughout all this time, Matilda performed frequently, singing in concert halls, for musical societies, and at other social events. During the war years, her engagements also included performances of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "The Star-Spangled Banner" at city events. She was particularly active with the Music Club and the Studio Club up until her death.

Matilda Reinhardt Elsas died suddenly at home in Atlanta on February 15, 1942. Her funeral was officiated by a member of the Church of Christ, Scientist, and she was buried at Westview Cemetery in Atlanta.

Sources:

1880 U.S. Census

1900 U.S. Census

1910 U.S. Census

1920 U.S. Census

The Atlanta Constitution

Dallas City Directory, 1884, in U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995

Florida, Passenger Lists, 1898-1963

Massachusetts State Vital Records, 1841-1920

New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925

The Vicksburg Herald

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