Tillie Olsen Dies at 94


By Carmen Comment

Many literary and publishing types are paying their respects this week to Tillie Olsen, who died Monday at the age of 94. Julie Bosman‘s obituary of her in the New York Times points out that Olsen’s short stories, books and essays lent a heartfelt voice to the struggles of women and working-class people, while Hillel Italie‘s AP writeup sums up what made Olsen’s work tick: “for her characters, the open road did not lead to freedom, but only to the next job.”

In addition to writing, Olsen taught at various universities throughout the 1960s and 70s, including MIT, Stanford and the University of Massachusetts, and beginning in the early 1970s, she was an adviser to the Feminist Press. At her suggestion the press began reprinting feminist classics that had been lost, starting with Rebecca Harding Davis‘s LIFE IN THE IRON MILLS. Over the years, Olsen recommended many of the books the Feminist Press reprinted. She is survived by four daughters, a sister, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.