Rebecca Harding Davis: Life in the Iron Mills

(2072 words)
  • Robin L. Cadwallader

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 …

Please log in to consult the article in its entirety. If you are not a subscriber, please click here to read about membership. All our articles have been written recently by experts in their field, more than 95% of them university professors.

Cadwallader, Robin L.. "Life in the Iron Mills". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 27 October 2011
[, accessed 04 July 2015.]