Tillie our "brilliant, beautiful, warrior Mother"
In San Francisco, Tillie became a familiar and passionate presence in community meetings, on picket lines and at demonstrations throughout the Bay Area - for labor, against apartheid and racism, as part of anti-war movements, on behalf of women's rights, to create a strong public education and public library system, and for the protection of the earth. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, Tillie was a familiar figure in the Western Addition and Tenderloin, handing out leaflets or posters, taking brisk walks, and stopping to talk with homeless people. When she would offer a few carefully folded dollar bills to “help out”, her response to "Thank you and bless you"
was inevitably, "Don't bless me - curse the system!"
-- always punctuated with a kiss.
In recognition of Tillie's enormous contribution to the life of the city, then Mayor Dianne Feinstein and the City Board of Supervisors declared a citywide Tillie Olsen Day in 1981. She was similarly honored by the City of Santa Cruz in 1998.
Tillie was a beautiful, powerfully charismatic and compassionate woman, who saw and sought the humanity in everyone.
She built enduring relationships with tellers in the bank, checkers in the supermarket, homeless people who frequented her neighborhood, young children, college students, mothers yearning to become writers, and many others who she came to know through correspondence she maintained with people throughout the world who were touched by her writing and speaking. Her writing, teaching and the example of her life have had profound influences on others to claim their voice, write, speak and take action.
(*daughter Kathie's words)