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Set in Ottawa in 1920, playwright Hannah Moscovitch’s What a Young Wife Ought to Know talks sex, baby.


Love. Marriage. Baby carriage. Until the advent of the birth control movement, both practical considerations and societal expectations placed women firmly on the path of this schoolyard rhyme.

In What a Young Wife Ought to Know, playwright Hannah Moscovitch explores the emotional and physical costs of living in a time where fertility could only be controlled by the stifling of passion. The play, set in Ottawa in 1920, centres on a married working-class couple whose lusty relationship results in too many mouths to feed.

The idea for play, which was commissioned by Halifax's 2b Theatre, was sparked by a collection of letters written in the 1920s to a women's rights and birth control advocate named Marie Stopes. The letters came from people of all classes who asked for Stopes' advice on sex, love and contraception. Her answers were candid and generally progressive. "It struck me as really odd that the literature of the time didn't have a lot of frank sex in it," says Moscovitch. "Yet here were these letters, many of them heart-wrenching, from people who were in dire straits because of sex."

Moscovitch began to muse about life before and after the social revolution that gave women the power to control their own reproductivity. "It seems so bizarre and unfathomable to me that less than a century ago, in a time that seems modern in that they had cars and electricity and things that, that life had to be so difficult for women."

As you might expect, the play comes with a warning about mature content: "There's a lot of sex in this play, so much sex that I blush in rehearsal," Moscovitch says with a small laugh. "But it is the topic, so it's all apropos."

What A Young Wife Ought to Know
To February 8
Neptune Theatre, 1593 Argyle Street
For tickets see

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