The life and work of Edith Stein are of immense importance to the women’s family planning movement, and to feminism. A dynamic combination of scholar, mystic, and feminist, at various times in her life she was a devout Jew, atheist, philosopher, Catholic, and Carmelite nun. She suffered at the hands of the Nazi Party, during the year 1942, and more than 50 years after her martyrdom in Auschwitz, she was declared a canonized saint.
As a brilliant feminist scholar she was able to challenge certain assumptions of the day, arguing for greater involvement of women in the liturgical life of the Church, in the professions, and in the workplace. She was an intellectual innovator of the fledgling women’s movement in Germany, following World War I. It is a remarkable tribute to her persona that she was able to harmonize these feminist aspirations with her abiding belief that at the deepest core of woman’s personality one will find receptivity and motherhood; not a ”barefoot and pregnant” reductionist view of motherhood, the kind which sees woman as a passive prisoner of her biology, and slave to her tyrant fertility. Rather, she saw receptivity and fertility as woman’s unique power, a power capable of transforming a home, workplace, professional environment, country, or society in ways that men cannot.
One of the prescient original insights was derived from her exegesis of the Genesis biblical narratives, as well as from her intuitive analysis of the lived experience of woman. This insight was that procreation would always be a consuming and psychologically preoccupying concern for the woman. This prophetic analysis anticipated the work of later experts of the psychology of woman, who recognized that procreation and childbearing can be anxiety-provoking challenges to put into integration in a woman’s life.
We believe that if Edith Stein were alive today she would be a zealous promoter of fertility consciousness and appreciation, and would see this issue as an existential core feminist issue. She would see this alternative as the only authentic and empowering way of satisfying modern woman’s fertility-control needs, in a way that fulfills the deepest needs of her person. Also, she would see contraception and sterilization as a deeply traumatizing form of rejection of woman’s core self. She would see them as debilitating compromises of fear, and therefore, contrary to reproductive freedom. She would not view contraception and sterilization as liberating technologies, but instead, cruel instruments of woman’s personal degradation and enslavement to the will and desires of others.
Therefore, we look to Edith Stein as patroness of our Foundation and movement. We see it most fitting that this great feminist and saint inspire our efforts to empower the world’s women in an authentic way in this new millennium. We believe that her groundbreaking discoveries, articulated within the woman’s movement, will have great power to influence the cultural dialogue concerning woman, sexuality, marriage, and family.