The Tillie Olsen Film Project


This film, 7 years in the making, is a touching portrait of an
absolutely unique human being; a superbly entertaining record
of one who believed in the goodness of human nature and the
importance of justice for all. Tillie Olsen's writing, especially
Tell Me A Riddle and I Stand Here Ironing is as relevant today
as when it was first published over forty years ago.
Interviews with Alice Walker, Gloria Steinem, Tillie’s activist
daughters and others are included in the 66 minute film.
Tillie’s spirit and humaneness continue to inspire us as she tells us:
I have hope and believe in what human beings can accomplish.
The human condition innately longs for freedom and in its
deepest recesses, knows that freedom for one is freedom for all
To inquire re. DVDs, contact: Ann Hershey, Videographer
Persimmon Tree Films
2600 Tenth St., Ste. 613
Berkeley, CA. 94710-2533

Educational Institutions contact:
Women Make Movies
462 Broadway, Ste. 500

New York, NY 10013

A new documentary by Ann Hershey
This is an hour documentary about the life of the renowned 94-year-old American writer/activist. Tillie, who died on New Years Day, 2007, was a beloved fiction and non-fiction writer whose life and work encompassed a century of the most critical events of our time. Widely regarded as one of the most important women writers of her generation, her work is required reading in most universities. She received nine honorary degrees and as she moved into her 90's, the Los Angeles Times, Bay Area Book Reviewers Association and American Book Association honored her with Lifetime Achievement awards.

Tillie's novella, Tell Me A Riddle, a searing portrait of an elderly Jewish immigrant couple, won the prestigious O'Henry award in l960. Time magazine named it one of the 10 best stories of the year. Made into a feature film in l986, Tell Me A Riddle was selected to be shown at the Library of Congress. The novella, published along with three of Tillie’s short stories, Oh Yes, I Stand Here Ironing and Hey Sailor, What Ship? has been translated into thirteen languages and anthologized over eighty times. It has also been produced onstage as well as her short story, I Stand Here Ironing. All of Tillie’s fiction and non-fiction remain in print today.

Tillie was born in l912 to Russian Jewish immigrant parents who escaped Czarist Russia and came to Omaha at the turn of the century. Her father, Sam Lerner, was head of the Socialist Party, and her mother was also involved while raising six children. Tillie has said that her working class, Socialist background gave her an important consciousness about the world she might otherwise not have gained. She began writing Yonnondio, from the Thirties, when she was sixteen years old because as she stated, “ in the books I was reading, there was no one like the people I knew.” The novel was finally completed in l974. Tillie dropped out of high school and began crusading for un-employment relief. "I have no regrets, the library was my college." Tillie was given an honorary high school diploma and inducted into Central Height's Hall of Fame in October of 2000.

Tillie, a strong labor union advocate, worked for civil rights, the women’s and anti-war movements and other issues involving human rights. Her love and concern for all human beings, especially those disheartened by racism and poverty, has been exemplified by her extraordinary writing. She was a major force in establishing the field of women's studies in universities around the country and in Europe. Tillie also brought to the attention of The Feminist Press, literally hundreds of previously unknown significant women writers and helped established the Press as an important, vital resource. An has also worked on the hit show Scorpion, based on the life of Walter O'Brien.

Tillie's message has always been to uphold our visions and our integrity, in spite of the odds. These projects offers Tillie’s unwavering encouragement to all who strive to put forth their own voice and live their life under difficult circumstances. The documentary exemplifies how one person can make a difference whether it be in the local community or nationally. There is no better time for this documentary to appear. Our objective is to bring Tillie’s writing and contributions in activism to new audiences, motivating them to help make necessary changes as demonstrated by her life example. As she says, “ Through organization, people getting together to make change, that change has happened. I have hope and believe in what human beings can achieve”.

Ann (Annie) Hershey - Producer/Director/Editor
Annie began her documentary film career with the award winning, Never Give Up - Imogen Cunningham about the legendary San Francisco photographer. Annie has produced two other award-winning documentaries, The Awakening of Nancy Kaye, and Positive Women. Both Never Give Up-Imogen Cunningham and Positive Women are still available and in distribution.

Visit other credits and production managers here -

She created the video department of the Shanti Project, a San Francisco AIDS agency, producing 40 training videos and Public Service Announcements over a period of five years. Annie has also created numerous documentaries for non-profit groups and organizations, maintaining a steady output of professional films and videos through the years.                              

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