Tillie Olsen

Content type

Tillie Olsen, 1913 - 2007

A daughter of immigrants and a working mother starved for time to write, Tillie Olsen drew from her personal experiences to create a small but influential body of work.

"Tell Me a Riddle" reissued in paperback

August 15, 1971

On August 15, 1971, ten years after its original publication, Tillie Olsen's short story collection Tell Me a Riddle was re-issued in a new

Tillie Olsen

Tillie Olsen was an American-Jewish author, professor, feminist, and social activist whose powerful fiction about the lives of the working poor, women, and minorities have shaped the development of the American literary cannon. Tillie Olsen’s own struggles to combine writing with working and raising a family spurred her to recover the writing of other silenced women writers, revolutionizing the study of women’s literature.

Edith Konecky

In her acclaimed novels, Edith Konecky depicted the world of nouveau riche Jewish American families in the early part of the twentieth century. Based on her own life experiences, her novels explored the realities of women growing up in abusive households and question the motives and actions of the wealthy male characters.

Filmmakers, Independent North American

Jewish women directors have made significant contributions to independent film and have created mainstream and experimental works that attempt to redefine Jewish identity. Subverting male-dominated Jewish literary and Hollywood traditions, these filmmakers employ images of hybrid identities and illuminate the lives of Jewish women in their work.

Fiction in the United States

Literature by American Jewish women reflects historical trends in American Jewish life and indicates the changing issues facing writers who worked to position themselves as Americans, Jews, and women.

Assimilation in the United States: Twentieth Century

Jewish women assimilating into a changing American society across the twentieth century navigated often conflicting gender roles. As they strove to achieve upward social mobility, they adapted Jewish assumptions of what women, especially married women, should do to accommodate American norms for middle class women. Their collective accomplishments registered in political activism, organizational creativity, strong support for feminism, religious innovation, and educational achievement in the face of antisemitism, stereotypes, and denigration.

Tillie Olsen: Voicing What Was Silenced

Jordan Namerow

Last week, after Jewish writer Tillie Olsen died at the age of 94, I picked up a copy of Tell Me A Riddle, her first collection of short stories published in 1961. Last night I re-read “I Stand Here Ironing,” a story that recounts a poor working woman’s ambivalence about her parenting skills and about her eldest daughter’s future during the Great Depression.

Topics: Feminism, Fiction


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