Who is Matilda?


Matilda “Tillie” Kleiser stood at 5’2”, dripping wet she probably weighed 100 lbs and was fit as a fiddle! Born on April 6, 1901, the youngest of 7 children, she spent 70 of her 84 years living on the Kleiser Farm. She was a daughter, sister, aunt, and my great-aunt.


Tillie caught meningitis at 3 and due to this lived the rest of her life with a stutter and limited communication skills.  Her inability to communicate left her at the mercy of anyone who would spend time trying to communicate with her.  She never went to school and other than her family and the farm animals, had few friends. Looking back on her life, it is possible Matilda was not nearly as mentally incapacitated as was thought. Diagnosing illness in 1904 had to be quite primitive at best and had she lived in today's world, she may have had a much different life.


When we cleaned out the attic of the farm house in 1994, we found newspaper clippings containing promises of cures for the mentally ill. ​It was clear my great-grandmother Margaret never gave up hope that she would eventually find a cure for her Matilda.


But Tillie was certainly quite intelligent and could, and did, do anything on the farm that needed to be done. She found solitude in her work, farming 250 acres, feeding her “pets”, cooking, cleaning and making her daily 2 mile walk across the pasture to pick up the mail.


So, as a tribute to the woman that never was the center of attention, who tacitly accepted the hardships that were dealt her, and who never received proper accolades for her diligence in caring for this farm, we have chosen “MATILDA’S”.