Olsen's story reveals a deeply skeptical attitude toward those who hold positions of power, whether they be the wealthy, the government, or institutions such as public hospitals and schools. Those in power are blind to the needs of the working class. Charity, it seems, is only an excuse not to give the working class real opportunities (such as a livable wage) to improve their own lives.
The skepticism is also informed by a post-World War II perspective that has witnessed the destructive power of the atomic bomb: political power is associated with death. The story attempts to make visible the real lives of the working class, from their own perspective.
In Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing," the simple love of a mother and daughter serves as a life-affirming alternative to the institutions that seem to repress, rather than nurture, life.
Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing" provides an important portrait of American life in the 1930s and 1940s, not from the point of view of the "great men" of history, but from the perspective of the ordinary person.