HomeGroupsTalkExploreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.

Tillie Olsen (1912–2007)

Author of Tell Me a Riddle

Includes the names: tillie olson, Tillie Olson, Tillie Oslen, Tillie Olsen

MembersReviewsPopularityRatingFavorited   Events   
1,633 (5,043)7013,766 (3.95)10
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Tillie Olsen received only a high school education. But because of her success as a writer, she has served as a visiting lecturer and writer-in-residence at a number of colleges, including Amherst College, Stanford University, and MIT. She has received numerous awards for her work, including an O. Henry Award for best American short story (1961) and a Guggenheim fellowship (1976-77). The widely anthologized "I Stand Here Ironing" (1961), in the circumstances of its publication and its voice and subject, embodies the concerns of Olsen's literary career. In this monologue of a woman reviewing her relationship to her 19-year-old daughter, Olsen suggests the themes of the blighted potential and wasted talent of working-class women that have preoccupied her throughout her career. As she irons, the woman mournfully meditates on how she may have prevented her daughter's full "flowering" - a flowering that she herself has never had. Most intensely recalled is how she had to leave her infant daughter to go to work after her husband abandoned them. A mother herself by age 19, Olsen did not publish her first work until she was in her forties (though she began to write in her teens) when the pressures of supporting herself and her four children lessened and she felt she had written something worthy of publication. At times considered unrelenting in the despair that she attributes to her characters, Olsen's style is marked by a rhythmic, hypnotic lyricism and an evocative use of language. Olsen later published an introductory essay to the reprint of Rebecca Harding Davis's nineteenth-century novel, Life in the Iron Mills. In Silences (1978), a collection of essays, she addresses directly the various cultural, political, and economic forces that silence women writers and writers from working-class or minority backgrounds. (Bowker Author Biography)
— biography from Tell Me a Riddle
… (more)
Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama (Contributor, some editions) 863 copies, 7 reviews
Points of View: Revised Edition (Contributor) 385 copies, 6 reviews
Women and Fiction: Short Stories By and About Women (Contributor) 341 copies, 6 reviews
100 Years of The Best American Short Stories (Contributor) 226 copies, 4 reviews
Life in the Iron Mills (Contributor, some editions) 114 copies, 2 reviews
Allegra Maud Goldman (Foreword, some editions) 102 copies, 4 reviews
Infinite Riches (Contributor) 51 copies
The Jewish Writer (Contributor) 47 copies
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical name
Legal name
Other names
Date of birth
Date of death
Burial location
Gender
Nationality
Country (for map)
Birthplace
Place of death
Cause of death
Places of residence
Education
Occupations
Relationships
Organizations
Awards and honors
Agents
Short biography
Tillie Lerner was born on a tenant farm in Nebraska to Russian-Jewish immigrants who fled their homeland after their involvement in the failed 1905 Russian revolution. She grew up in Omaha, where her father worked as a painter and paperhanger and served as state secretary of the Nebraska Socialist Party. Tillie was a voracious reader from a young age, and although she dropped out of Omaha High School after the 11th grade, she said, "public libraries were my sustenance and my college." In 1929, she embarked on what would be a lifetime of low-paying jobs, such as hotel maid, waitress, and factory worker. She joined the Young Communist League and became deeply involved in many labor, social, and political causes. She was briefly jailed for organizing packinghouse workers in Omaha and Kansas City. At age 19, while recovering from illness contracted as a result of factory work, Tillie wrote her first novel, later titled Yonnondio: From the Thirties, which would not be published for another 40 years. In 1932, her first child was born, and the next year she moved to San Francisco. In 1936 she met Jack Olsen, an organizer and a longshoreman. They married in 1944 and had 3 more children. At age 42, Tillie Olsen decided to try to return to writing. She applied for and received a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing at Stanford University and published her first short story "I Stand Here Ironing" in 1955. Over the next eight years, she produced the stories collected in her most famous volume, Tell Me a Riddle, the title story of which received the O'Henry Award in 1941 as the Best American short story of the year. Tillie Olsen drew attention in her work to lives of women and the poor and influenced American feminist fiction since the 1940s. She became a teacher and writer-in-residence at numerous colleges, such as Amherst College, Stanford University, MIT, and Kenyon College. She was the recipient of nine honorary degrees, National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Disambiguation notice

Member ratings

Average: (3.95)
0.5
1 1
1.5 1
2 20
2.5 6
3 93
3.5 19
4 143
4.5 22
5 124

Author pictures (2)

   

(see all 2 author pictures)

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 176,709,781 books! | Top bar: Always visible