Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Drama Women Authors

What a Young Wife Ought to Know

by (author) Hannah Moscovitch

Playwrights Canada Press
Initial publish date
Aug 2019
Women Authors, Canadian
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2019
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Aug 2019
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


Just don’t lie down and no child will come.

It’s Ottawa in the 1920s, pre-legalized birth control. Sophie, a young working-class girl, falls madly in love with and marries a stable-hand named Jonny. After two difficult childbirths, doctors tell Sophie she shouldn’t have any more children, but don’t tell her how to prevent it. When Sophie inevitably becomes pregnant again, she faces a grim dilemma.

In an unflinching look at love, sex, and fertility, and inspired by real stories of mothers during the Canadian birth-control movement of the early twentieth century, one of Canada’s most celebrated playwrights vividly recreates a couple’s struggles with reproduction.

About the author

Hannah Moscovitch is an acclaimed playwright, librettist and TV writer. Her work for the stage includes East of Berlin, This Is War, Little One, The Russian Play, Infinity and What a Young Wife Ought to Know. Her plays have been widely produced across Canada, as well as in the United States, Britain, the Netherlands, Greece, Austria, Australia and Japan. Hannah’s music-theatre hybrid, Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story (co-created with Christian Barry and Ben Caplan) has toured internationally, garnering a New York Times Critics’ Pick and over fifty four- and five-star reviews. Hannah’s operas with Lembit Beecher, Sky on Swings and I have no stories to tell you, have been produced at Gotham Chamber Opera / the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Opera Philadelphia. She has been honoured with numerous accolades, including multiple Dora Mavor Moore Awards, Toronto Theatre Critics Awards, Fringe First and Herald Angels Awards, the Trillium Book Award, the Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award and the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize. She has also been nominated for a Drama Desk Award, the international Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and twice for the Siminovitch Prize. Recently, Hannah debuted her first confessional work for the stage, Secret Life of a Mother (co-created with Maev Beaty, Ann-Marie Kerr and Marinda De Beer) at the Theatre Centre in Toronto. Hannah is a playwright-in-residence at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto and lives in Halifax.

Hannah Moscovitch's profile page


  • Nominated, Governor General's Literary Awards

Excerpt: What a Young Wife Ought to Know (by (author) Hannah Moscovitch)


There’s a storm, the sound of rain.

Jonny and Sophie are kissing. Then as the sexuality escalates, Sophie disentangles herself, pushes Jonny gently away from her. Beat of them still, then:

Jonny: Where’s the baby?

Sophie: In his cot — I’m sorry, Jonny —

Jonny: No, no?

Sophie: The doctor said . . . not to.

Jonny nods.


Then, scuffing the floor:

Jonny: The floor’s turned to mud.


It’ll give you pain?

Sophie nods.

It will?

Sophie: It might, but that’s not . . .

Jonny: For how long?

Sophie: I think the doctor meant a while.

Jonny: A month?


A year?

Sophie: He told me I had insides quite exhausted and he dearly hoped I didn’t have any more children.


He said I should not have more children, / Jonny, so . . .

Jonny: I — I — yes.

Beat. Jonny realizes.

No more?

Sophie: We have the two?

Jonny: No more . . . ? No more children . . . ? No more . . . ? No more?

Sophie: That’s what he said.

Jonny: Did you ask him . . . what that meant, how to . . . ?

Sophie: I said, “How do I prevent it?” He didn’t answer, only said it would weaken my health, and could . . . cost my life.

Jonny: He did?

Sophie: Yes, and a child would get no nourishment from my womb, he said.


I’ll ask him again. I was nervous to . . . say what I wanted to: that it would be hard not to — to have no . . .


I’m sorry, Jonny — ?

Jonny: No, no. We have the two.

Jonny nods to himself and gets up.

Sophie turns back to the audience.

Editorial Reviews

“Brace yourself for a heart-wrenching experience that will provoke tears and laughter.”

Lynn Saxberg, Ottawa Citizen

“The play adds to necessary, current conversations around representation of women, gender inequity and female sexuality.”

Karen Fricker, Toronto Star

“By giving the women of the 1920s a voice, Moscovitch has given many contemporary women a voice as well. What a Young Wife Ought to Know is more than a compelling history lesson, it is an opportunity to contemplate the state of sexual health and freedom in our society today… 3 — stars (out of 4)”

Meghan Hubley, The Globe and Mail

Other titles by Hannah Moscovitch

Related lists