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Life in the Iron Mills and Other Stories Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0935312393 ISBN-10: 0935312390 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: The Feminist Press at CUNY; 2nd edition (January 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0935312390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0935312393
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #403,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Stop a moment. I am going to be honest. This is what I want you to do. I want you to hide your disgust, take no heed to your clean clothes, and come right down with me - here, into the thickest of the fog and mud and foul effluvia. I want you to hear a story." Life in the Iron Mills shocked the Atlantic Monthly readership when it was published in 1861. It tells the story of Hugh Wolfe, a desperately poor worker in the iron mills, and his cousin Deb, who steals money so that Hugh might have a chance to become an artist. The anonymous narrator of the story is merciless, intent upon showing her readers life at the bottom, complete with drunkenness, rotten food, and slimy hovels. Hugh Wolfe's life is a daily as well as archetypal tragedy, grabbing at the hearts and stomachs of its readers, and Rebecca Harding Davis captures his life in prose that combines outrage, spirituality, and nightmare. Again and again, she demands compassion and action; the solution she sees lies not only in working-class leadership but in businessmen coming to see their workers as human beings with hearts and souls. It is a courageous, hypnotic story; appropriately enough, its republication in 1972, the first of the Feminist Press rediscovered classics series, helped mobilize a movement toward the reprinting of neglected works by American women. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Erica Bauermeister

About the Author

Activist and author Tillie Olsen is best known for her prize-winning fiction Tell Me a Riddle and Yonnondio: From the Thirties. She has taught at MIT, Stanford, and Amherst. Olsen is an recipient of an Award for Distinguished Contribution to American Literature from the American Academy and the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

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Customer Reviews

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Pijan on December 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
I read Life in the Iron Mills for a graduate English course on social-class-imagery in 18th & 19th cen Transatlantic (British and American) literature with Elisabeth Ceppi at Portland State. Ceppi asked us to read closely for the rhetoric of class attributes. There was much class-identifying-imagery to observe in Harding-Davis' 1860's rendering of the lives of impoverished Welsh miners transported into late-slave-era iron foundries of the American North. Mid-19th-cen feminist literature of this social-reform type is deeply informed by Protestant missionary enthusiasm to transform everyone into clean-living bourgeois church-goers. Thus Harding-Davis uses powerful polarities of dirt for workers, clean for bouregoisie, etc. It's so blunt and obvious that she could be accused of writing soap-opera ... as many of her mid-1800's female-writer colleagues were accused, sometimes justly. However her scenes of poverty, disease, and death in the mills are so heart-wrenching that her motives are clearly pure. Now that Tillie Olsen has rescued Harding-Davis' wonderful writing from obscurity, she is good to read for knowledge of American feminist writing history, for understanding of American class polarities in the ante-bellum era, and also for a true, scary story of life with the great unwashed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Cameron E. Seright on March 10, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I ordered this book for an environmental literature class, and have only read "Life in the Iron Mills." The short story was quite depressing, but very good. It left me thinking about it for days after I finished it. This is one of the best stories I have ever read. I loved that this story sends a message that even in the most grimy surroundings one can find beauty. A great read.
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1 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Yoshiyuki Shiomi on September 7, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Thank you so much!!
the item that i ordered has come in a really nice condition
that i expected.
thanks again.
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