I Stand Here Ironing by Tillie Olsen

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I Stand Here Ironing' is a short story written by Tillie Olsen and published in her short story collection Tell Me a Riddle. The story describes a woman who is ironing and the people she meets along the way.


During the great depression, Elizabeth Olsen was abandoned by her first husband. She had more children with her second husband. She then became a writer and published a volume of stories after attending Stanford. She also served as a writer in residence at MIT. Her stories have been published in over one hundred anthologies. Her fiction has been widely praised. She has received several honorary degrees and lectured at many universities.

"I Stand Here Ironing" was first published in 1961. The story is an unflinching portrait of motherhood. The narrator has five children and works to provide for them. However, she finds herself unable to improve the life of her daughter, Emily.


Unlike most stories written in a first-person point of view, "I Stand Here Ironing" is narrated by a mother. The narrative follows the narrator's life, including her early years and her daughter's. The story is not overtly political, but it explores themes of denying opportunities to women and regrets.

The ironing ritual is a metaphor for the narrator's life, as it gives her time to reflect. She is ironing her linen and writes musings about her past. Her thoughts range from her childhood to her early marriage. She recalls her first marriage, her daughter's birth, and her first attempts to support her. She wonders why her daughter, Emily, is unhappy.


Taking inspiration from the thirties' socially conscious literature, author Ruth Olsen wrote "I Stand Here Ironing." It is a novel that uses ironing as a metaphor for individual position in society. The narrator irons clothes while remembering the past.

The story is set in a cramped walk-up apartment. The narrator irons clothes in order to make ends meet. She has five children. She is a single parent. She has also been an activist in the labor movement. In the end, she regrets her attitude.

The story is about a mother and her daughter, Emily. Emily is an impatient and irritable child. She is unhappy with her mother's constant ironing activities. She also has a hard time dealing with her mother's guilt. Her mother tries to understand Emily's plight. Emily's mother hopes that Emily will one day be able to see beyond her ironing activities.


During the Great Depression, many Americans suffered severe deprivations. They lived in fear that they might one day experience such hardships again. Those who had lost loved ones during the era found it difficult to meet their needs. Feminism had to find a way to satisfy those needs.

Elizabeth Olsen was a writer who had studied at Stanford. She published a collection of stories after she finished her studies. But her literary career was interrupted by the heavy demands of being a working mother. In "I Stand Here Ironing," Olsen challenges the stereotypical images of femininity.

"I Stand Here Ironing" was published in 1961. It has impressed critics and other writers. The story explores the theme of denied opportunity.

The iron

Symbolism is very important in "I Stand Here Ironing" by Tillie Olsen. It embodies the struggles of a mother in the domestic sphere. It is also a metaphor for the narrator's constant obligations. The ironing board is a symbol for the narrator's chores.

The iron is mentioned in several ways, including as a symbol of societal pressures. It also represents the narrator's responsibility to her family. There are also other instances when the iron is mentioned, such as when the narrator is ironing her own clothes.

The narrator tries to understand the source of her daughter's difficulties, but cannot fully understand them. This leaves the narrator with a sense of guilt. She is not sure if she will be able to escape her daughter's fate. She also realizes that she has kept too much of herself inside. She regrets her attitude.

The ending

Described as a monologue by a mother, "I Stand Here Ironing" is the most frequently anthologized short story by Olsen. It is a reflection of a mother's relationship with her oldest daughter. However, there are no romantic elements in the story, despite the mother's love for her daughter.

Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing" was inspired by the Great Depression, and many Americans remember the deprivations they suffered during that time. This short story is a glimpse into the economic conditions that inspired Olsen to become an active left-wing labor force when she was young. Her work has received many accolades, including honorary degrees from several universities.

November 28, 2022




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