The Iron Trap

Recently I read the short story, “I stand here ironing” by Tillie Olsen.  It describes a young woman’s experience of being a mother, focusing primarily on her firstborn child.  It was the depression, a harsh time to be a single mother.  The mother tries everything to make her firstborn daughter’s life better, even giving her away to another family for a little while, but in the end the mother remains helpless to change things.  The mother is stuck in her role of motherhood to her other children and she is also poor.  Not having much money significantly hinders her options of helping her firstborn daughter to excel in life.

I found this story incredibly sad even though I cannot relate to being a mother.  What is relatable?  The feeling of being trapped in a certain role.  The consuming feeling of the things you could have done and how they might have changed the outcome of something.  Perhaps the saddest thing is the setting of the story.  The whole story the woman is standing ironing and I’m sure if the story continued she would still be ironing.  She is helplessly stuck in one place despite of everything she has tried to do.


I found this video of a picture/music interpretation of the short story “I stand here ironing”.  It shows pictures from the depression which is the time the story is set in and when the author Tillie Olsen lived.



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