Tillie Olsen

January 14, 1912 - January 1, 2007

The writings of Tillie Olsen have been such a part of the feminist canon that it seemed she would live forever. In a letter to Lilith many years ago, we were struck by the excruciating modesty of her penmanship, as well as of her thoughts. Her signature was minuscule, and then she wrote it once again, larger, so that we could see who’d written the letter, much as one would type one’s name below a penned signature. Here is part of what her family sent out to celebrate her life and work:

“Her family requests that on her birthday, January 14th, people whose lives have been touched by Tillie gather with friends in their homes and public libraries to celebrate her life and to read her work together. We would be comforted to hear from you about your celebrations. Please email us (tillies_ family@childpeacebooks.org).

Tillie Olsen is internationally known and honored for her powerful, brilliantly crafted, poetic writing depicting the lives of working- class people, women and people of color with respect, profound understanding and deep love. Her books, Tell Me a Riddle, Yonnondio from the Thirties, and Silences, and her essays and lectures have been translated into 12 languages. Her works are considered by many to be central to working-class literature, women’s studies, and the understanding of creative processes and the conditions, which permit imagination to flourish.”