Olsen's story is partly autobiographical. Olsen gave birth to her first daughter, Karla, at age nineteen. Karla's father was often not around, and Olsen lived apart from her daughter for quite a while when she was young (source).
Olsen's story was motivated by her own concern for social justice. Noting "the difference between the way you're judged from the outside and the true reality," Olsen explained that she "wanted to write those realities in a way to inform the kind of people who had the power to take away one's child" (source: Frye, Joanne S. Tillie Olsen: A Study of the Short Fiction. NY: Twayne, 1995.)