Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Mathilde "Tillie" Gecks, 1867-1949
By Alexandria Green and Camryn Grove, undergraduate students, Northwest Missouri State University. Edited by Dr. Elyssa Ford, Northwest Missouri State University.
Mathilde Cecelia Gecks, known as Tillie, was born on September 15, 1867, in St. Louis, Missouri. She was born to Frank Gecks and Elizabeth Landfried Gecks, who were immigrants from Germany. Tillie spent most of her life dedicated to work in education and teachers' associations, such as the National Education Association and the Missouri State Teachers Federation where she served as president for several years. Tillie Gecks also was involved in the National Council of Catholic Women, the Home Economics Committee, and the teachers' division of the Men's Advisory Committee. In all of these areas, Tillie took on leadership roles as a woman, promoted the abilities of other women, and supported the women's suffrage movement.
As a member of the National Education Association, Tillie assumed many different duties, such as becoming a supervisor, serving as a part of the Primary Department, and working with the St. Louis public schools. As a supervisor for the primary level, she shared her educational ideas and information with various women's organizations, including the Education and Home Economics Committee and the Missouri Federation of Women's Clubs. When speaking at these organizations, she discussed the work being done by primary school students and explained a variety of issues within the educational system.
Along with her positions in the National Education Association, Tillie Gecks also was elected the first female president of the Missouri State Teacher Association in 1917. The Missouri State Teacher Association was created in 1856 to support teachers. As president, Tillie attended many conventions across the state and often spoke about her beliefs. Perhaps because of her role as president of the MSTA, Tillie attended the 1917 state convention for women's suffrage, held in Kansas City that year, where she headed up the teachers' division.
Another organization that Tillie supported was the National Council of Catholic Women, which was founded in March of 1920. This organization was founded after World War I to give Catholic women a voice, empower them to reach out to other Catholic women, and help raise awareness for women's suffrage. Although Tillie's involvement in this organization was not as significant as her role in the National Education Association, this helped her become more involved with the suffrage movement.
Tillie Gecks never married and died on August 3, 1949, in St. Louis, Missouri. Throughout her life, Tillie took on many different roles incorporating her beliefs about education, women's work, and religion. While not a leader in the women's suffrage movement, her life and her involvement are an example of how many women supported women's rights and the suffrage campaign through their daily lives and actions.
- Image of Tillie Gecks's gravestone in Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/93454280/mathilde-cecelia-gecks
Tillie Gecks appears most frequently in newspapers about her professional involvement in educational organization and her involvement in religious organizations, including in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and the St. Louis Star and Times. Information about her involvement with the suffrage movement can be found in the National American Woman Suffrage Association's The History of Woman Suffrage (New York: J.J. Little & Ives Company, 1922): 350. [LINK]