Rebecca Harding Davis: Life in the Iron Mills

(1944 words)
  • Robin L. Cadwallader (Saint Francis University)

According to what has become a legendary tale among American literature scholars, Tillie Olsen discovered “Life in the Iron-Mills” (see note) in an old issue of bound Atlantic Monthly magazines she found in an Omaha junkshop when she was fifteen. Indeed, referring to it as “a forgotten American classic”, Olsen declared in 1972, “No reader I encountered had ever heard of the story” (Foreword; Notes 158). Although she deserves credit for her astute evaluation, valuable research, and timely recovery of Rebecca Harding Davis’s story, Olsen herself does not claim to have discovered anything; instead, she uses the term “introduced” when describing an early discussion she had with Florence Howe and Paul …

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Cadwallader, Robin L.. "Life in the Iron Mills". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 27 October 2011
[, accessed 26 September 2016.]