Written by Marjolaine Arsenault


  The mother-daughter relationship in " I Stand Here Ironing "

    This short story is written from the first person’s point of view, the mother.  The narrator uses "you" within the first paragraph and it refers to a therapist or a counsellor.  The mother discusses her problems that are related to her daughter Emily. 

You think because I am her mother I have a key, or that in some way you could use me as a key?  She has lived for nineteen years.  There is all that life that has happened outside of me, beyond me (Pickering, 2004, p. 1103). 

    This quote demonstrates the concern of the mother asking someone to help understanding her daughter.  This situation illustrates the boundary between the mother and her daughter.  A distant relationship is created between the main character and her daughter; she seems to be looking for reasons, as a child looking for answers, and she is unhappy and depressed.  The young and single mother struggles to raise her daughter.  At first, the main character seems weak and naïve trying to survive as a single mother within a capitalist word.  However, Emily grows up as her mother evolves.  The mother realizes that her skinny and shy little girl is becoming a talented woman with goals.  Even if she encounters financial and familial difficulties, her strength and love for her daughter help her to get through this harsh situation.

The old man living in the back once said in his gentle way: "You should smile at Emily more when you look at her." What was in my face when I looked at her? I loved her.  There were all the acts of love. (Pickering, 2004, p. 1104).


The mother’s love is an important aspect that constantly keeps the reader awake along the story.  Despite this odd situation, Emily can always rely on her mother.  The main character never abandons her child, like her husband did.  Later on in the story, the mother fights for eight months to get her daughter released from the hospital.  Even if Emily does not have an easy childhood and does not grow up having an ideal relationship with her mother, she turns into a beautiful and talented woman.  When Emily realizes that her childhood was only stage in her life, like a butterfly, she starts to recognize her potential.     

The ironing mother

In 2005, Bruce Schwartz adapted and released Olsen’s classic feminist short story "I Stand Here Ironing" into a

film.  This movie deals with the same issues as did the short story:  

           ▪ the role of woman in society;

           ▪ individual identity;

              ▪ the effects of poverty and abandonment on                 children.



This short film lasts 20 minutes, and it received different awards such as:                                 

                                   ▪ Silver Telly Award;

                                   ▪ Silver Plaque;

                                   ▪ Chicago International Film Festival;

                                   ▪ Arts & Culture category.  

                   Awards Reviews                                                                                                            

                       "This Hollywood-quality presentation features excellent cinematography, performance, and period sets. A worthy purchase.” ¯Library Journal


“The program provides an excellent illustration of the themes addressed…. An excellent dramatization and one that would benefit the study and deeper understanding of the work as read. The technical aspects are high quality, and the performances are well done.” ¯Educational Media Reviews Online


Works Cited