Jewish women played important roles in many aspects of the birth control movement, as activists, consumers, and distributors. Yet just as the legal system was not yet sure what to make of contraception, neither was the American Jewish community. While hundreds of thousands of Jewish women clearly limited their family size, both ambivalence toward birth control and pockets of outright opposition also persisted. This essay briefly examines the developments in the birth control movement during the pivotal year of 1916 in which Jewish women played important roles. The essay then turns to analysis of two Yiddish plays on the topic written that year. Neither play has ever before been translated in full. Because the Yiddish theater was a central American Jewish cultural institution, the production of plays on the subject of birth control in 1916 dramatized the importance of the issue within the American Jewish community. Though the plays quite possibly loom larger in retrospect than they did at the time and are notable more for content than literary merit, they nonetheless provide a critical lens through which to explore the complex relationship between American Jewry and the birth control movement.
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