Tillie Olsen’s I Stand Here Ironing Essay

1044 Words5 Pages
Tillie Olsen’s I Stand Here Ironing Tillie Olsen was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1913, the child of political refugees from Russia. Olsen dropped out of school at the age of sixteen to help support her family during the depression. She became politically active in the Young Communist League and was involved in the Warehouse Union’s labor disputes in Kansas City. Her first novel, Yonnondio, about a poor, working-class family, was begun when she was nineteen. While writing the novel over the next four years, she gave birth to her first child and was left to raise the baby alone after her husband abandoned her. She married Jack Olsen in 1936 and had three more children. She remained politically active and held down various jobs while…show more content…
Before the feminist movement of the 1960s and 70s, women struggled to hold on to their identity while raising children, caring for their husbands and homes, and in Olsen’s case, working to support the family. Like Tillie Olsen, Adrienne Rich struggled with society’s expectation of women to become wives, mothers, and homemakers. Both women bought into the "angel in the house" theory and found themselves unsatisfied. They fought to hold onto their individuality by expressing their ideas through writing, which was not readily accepted in the male dominated literary world. Author Margaret Atwood understands the magnitude of Olsen’s accomplishment saying, "Women writers, even more than their male counterparts, recognize what a heroic feat it is to have held down a job, raised four children, and still somehow managed to become and to remain a writer" (qtd. in Charters 1128). Though Olsen tells her story honestly, with a matter of fact quality, she stirs the reader with emotion and empathy for the overworked mother and the unintentionally neglected daughter. As the story begins, Olsen receives a call from her daughter’s schoolteacher asking her to come to the school to talk with her about Emily’s problems. Olsen draws the reader in as she addresses the teacher in her thoughts. She wonders, "Even if I came in, what good would it do? You think because
Open Document