Tillie Olsen Biography

Tillie Lerner Olsen (January 14, 1912 – January 1, 2007)[1] was an American writer associated with the political turmoil of the 1930s and the first generation of American feminists.

Olsen was born to Russian Jewish immigrants in Wahoo, Nebraska and moved to Omaha while a young child. There she attended Lake School in the Near North Side through the eighth grade, living among the city's Jewish community. At age 15, she dropped out of Omaha High School to enter the work force. Over the years Olsen worked as a waitress, domestic worker, and meat trimmer. She was also a union organizer and political activist in the Socialist community. In the 1930s she joined the American Communist party. She was briefly jailed in 1934 while organizing a packing house workers' union (the charge was "making loud and unusual noise"), an experience she wrote about in The Nation and The Partisan Review. She later moved to San Francisco, California, where in 1936 she met and lived with Jack Olsen, who was an organizer and a longshoreman. She married Jack in 1944, on the eve of his departure for service in World War II. San Francisco remained her home until her 85th year when she moved to Berkeley, California, to a cottage behind the home of her youngest daughter.