Introduction & Overview of I Stand Here Ironing by Tillie Olsen

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I Stand Here Ironing Summary & Study Guide Description

I Stand Here Ironing Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Further Reading on I Stand Here Ironing by Tillie Olsen.

Tillie Olsen's story "I Stand Here Ironing" recounts a poor working woman's ambivalence about her parenting skills and her eldest daughter's future. Published in Olsen's first collection of stories, Tell Me a Riddle, in 1961, this first-person story contains many autobiographical elements. Central to the plot is the metaphor of a mother ironing her daughter's dress as she mentally attempts to "iron" out her uneasy relationship with her daughter through a stream-of-consciousness monologue. The narrator, a middle-aged mother of five, as Olsen was when she wrote the story, is the type of woman whose story was seldom heard at that time: that of a working-class mother who must hold down a job and care for children at the same time. "Her father left me before she was a year old," the mother says, a circumstance that mirrored Olsen's predicament as a young mother. The story was heralded by the emerging women's movement of the early 1960s as an example of the difficulty of some women's lives and as a portrayal of the self-doubt many mothers suffer when they know their children are not receiving all the attention they deserve. Love or longing is not enough, Olsen says; everything must be weighed against forces that are beyond one's control. Though the story is not overtly political, it presents the type of economic condition that inspired Olsen to become active in left-wing labor causes at a young age. "I Stand Here Ironing," an unromantic portrait of motherhood, is perhaps the most frequently anthologized of Olsen's stories.

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Short Stories for Students
I Stand Here Ironing from Short Stories for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.