Discipline: Literature

Tillie Olsen

Discipline: Literature
Region: Berkeley, CA
MacDowell Fellowships: 1965, 1969, 1972, 1973, 1973, 1977, 1981, 1985, 1991, 1992

Tillie Olsen (1912-2007) was an American writer associated with the political turmoil of the 1930s and the first generation of American feminists. Olsen first published a book in 1961, Tell Me a Riddle, a collection of four short stories, were linked by the characters in one family. Three of the stories were from the point of view of mothers. In 1968, Olsen signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse to pay taxes in protest against the Vietnam War. Olsen's non-fiction volume, titled Silences, published in 1978, presented an analysis of authors' silent periods, including writer's blocks, unpublished work, and the problems that working-class writers, and women in particular, have in finding the time to concentrate on their art. Once her books were published, Olsen became a teacher and writer-in-residence at numerous colleges, such as Amherst College, Stanford University, MIT, and Kenyon College. She was the recipient of nine honorary degrees, National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Also among the honors bestowed upon Olsen was the Distinguished Contributions to American Literature Award from the American Academy and the Institutes of American Arts and Letters, in 1975, and the Rea Award for the Short Story, in 1994, for a lifetime of outstanding achievement in the field of short story writing. Tillie was invited to record her work at the Library of Congress in 1996.



Tillie Olsen worked in the Schelling studio.

Marian MacDowell funded construction of this studio the year that the organization was established and the first artists arrived for residency. It was called Bark Studio until 1933, when it was renamed in honor of Ernest Schelling, a composer, pianist, and orchestral leader who served as president of what was then called the Edward MacDowell…

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