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American Literary Studies

Tillie Olsen Papers

The Papers

Location: Department of Special Collections, Green Library

Call Number: M0667

Size: 26.5 linear ft

Finding Guide: A printed version is available in the reading room of the Department of Special Collections. Electronic versions of this finding guide are also available. If you have Microsoft's Internet Explorer version 6.0 or higher, click here to connect to the Stanford server; if not, click here for the html version on the Online Archives of California server.

Research Access and Use: Materials in the Department of Special Collections are non-circulating and must be used in the Special Collections' Reading Room in the Cecil H. Green Library. The Reading Room is open 10:00am to 5:00pm Monday through Friday. Photocopies, photographs, and microfilm can be made of some materials in the collections. For more information about the collections and access policies, please contact Special Collections by telephone at (650) 725-1022, by electronic mail at or by regular mail at the Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, California 94305-6004.

Career of Tillie Olsen (1912-2007)

Novelist, short story writer, and feminist critic, Olsen was born in Nebraska in 1912 of Russian Jewish immigrants and attended schools in Omaha through the eleventh grade. Her socialist upbringing, empathy for the underprivileged, and innovative relation to langauge made Olsen both a radical and a modernist. Though Olsen published several widely admired pieces in periodicals during the 1930s, she did not achieve full national prominence until the 1960s with the appearance of her first book, Tell Me a Riddle (1961), a collection of stories notable for its subtle registration of working class America. Also the author of Silences (1978), a benchmark of feminist criticism, and of the novel Yonnondio (1974), Olsen "made the mysterious turn and became a writing writer" while she was a fellow in Stanford's Creative Writing Program during 1956-57. Tillie Olsen died on January 1, 2007 in Oakland, California.

Highlights and Research Potential of the Papers

The Tillie Olsen Papers are arranged in eleven (11) series, including literary manuscripts, notebooks, journals, and personal writings, correspondence with fellow writers and social activists, teaching materials, and printed documents. Especially important are the extensive working notes, drafts, and revised typescripts for all her published work. Also present are unpublished fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction. Correspondence includes files of letters from Hannah Green, Adrienne Rich, May Sarton, Anne Sexton, and Alice Walker. Among the printed materials are rare and ephemeral items documenting the socialist labor and feminist movements from the 1930s through the 1980s.

Selected Biography and Criticism on Tillie Olsen

  • Olsen, Tillie. Tillie Olsen Interview with Kay Bonetti [sound recording]. Columbia, Mo. : American Audio Prose Library, 1 sound cassette (77 min.) Archive Rec Sound Phono. Summary: The author discusses her life and her work.
  • The Critical Response to Tillie Olsen. Edited by Kay Hoyle Nelson and Nancy Huse. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1994.
    Green Library Stacks PS3565.L82 Z615 1994
  • Coiner, Constance. Better Red : The Writing and Resistance of Tillie Olsen and Meridel Le Sueur. New York : Oxford University Press, c1995
    Green Library Stacks PS3565.L82Z613 1995
  • Faulkner, Mara. Protest and Possibility in the Writing of Tillie Olsen. Charlottesville : University Press of Virginia, 1993.
    Green Library Stacks PS3565.L82 Z64 1993
    Meyer PS3565.L82 Z64
  • Orr, Elaine Neil. Tillie Olsen and a Feminist Spiritual Vision. Jackson, Miss. : University Press of Mississippi, c1987.
    Green Library Stacks PS3565.L82Z8 1987
  • Pearlman, Mickey. Tillie Olsen . Twayne's United States Authors Series ; TUSAS 581Boston : Twayne Publishers, 1991.
    Green Library Stacks PS3565.L82 Z84 1991

Bibliography of Tillie Olsen

  • "Bibliography" in The Critical Response to Tillie Olsen. Edited by Kay Hoyle Nelson and Nancy Huse. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1994, pp. 261-269.
    Green Library Stacks PS3565.L82 Z615 1994

Related Manuscript Collections at Stanford

Olsen, Tillie. Correspondence with Per Seyersted, 1979-1994. Spec Coll - Green Library Misc 367

Painter, Charlotte. Papers, 1955-1992. Spec Coll - Green Library M0619

Winters, Yvor (1900-1968) and Janet Lewis (1899- ). Papers, 1906-1982. Spec Coll - Green Library M0352

Other Repository Holdings




Last modified: February 12, 2007

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