Fradel Shtok holds a place among the pioneers of modern Yiddish literature for her treatment of the inner sensual lives of Jewish women. Although her work showed great promise, her career as a Yiddish writer was brief. Very little biographical information is available about her. Born in Skale, Galicia, in 1890, she was a lively child, musically talented and academically gifted, but her early childhood was marred by the death of her mother when Shtok was two years old. A few years later, her father, Shimen, was sent to prison for his involvement in a murder and died there when Shtok was ten. Thereafter, she was raised by an aunt.
Immigrating to New York in 1907, Shtok published poems and short stories in a variety of anthologies and literary journals, especially those of the literary group Di Yunge [The young generation]. A number of her poems appeared in Moyshe Basin’s landmark anthology Antologye fun Finf Hundert Yor Yidishe Poezye [Anthology of five hundred years of Yiddish poetry] (1917). She is one of the first poets to write sonnets in Yiddish.
In 1919, Shtok published a collection of thirty-eight stories entitled Gezamlte Ertseylungen [Collected stories], in which the themes of female eroticism and sexual repression are prominent. Responses from critics were mixed. The book was acclaimed by Shmuel Niger in the literary journal Di Tsukunft [The future], but a somewhat negative review by the poet Aaron Glanz (Leyeles) appeared in Der Tog [The day]. Glanz praised Shtok’s writing style and talent, but complained that, as a whole, the collection was monotonous, and advised the author to stop writing about the (Yiddish) Small-town Jewish community in Eastern Europe.shtetl and the sweatshop. Shtok was deeply angered by Glanz’s review, and is reputed to have abandoned writing in Yiddish because of it. A harsh review of Gezamlte Ertseylungen by Moissaye Olgin appeared in the socialist weekly Di Naye Velt [The new world]. Olgin accused Shtok of taking a condescending attitude toward the characters in her stories and writing with a great deal of pessimism. None of the three critics took note of the innovative thematic content in the collection.
During the 1920s, Shtok switched to writing in English and published one work, Musicians Only (1927), which received little critical attention.
By the early 1930s, Shtok had disappeared from the Yiddish literary scene. She is thought to have spent her last years in a sanatorium. The date and place of her death remain unknown.
SELECTED WORKS BY FRADEL SHTOK
Antologye fun Finf Hundert Yor Yidishe Poezye [Anthology of five hundred years of Yiddish poetry]. Edited by Moyshe Basin (1917); Gezamlte Ertseylungen [Collected stories] (1919); Found Treasures: Stories by Yiddish Women Writers. Edited by Frieda Forman, Ethel Raicus, Sarah Silberstein Swartz, and Margie Wolfe (1995); Musicians Only (1927); The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women’s Anthology. Edited by Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz and Irena Klepfisz (1989).
“Fradl Shtok.” Leksikon fun der Nayer Yidisher Literatur 8, no. 608 (1981): 39–45.
Glanz, Aaron. “Temperament.” Der Tog (December 7, 1919): 9.
Glatshteyn, Yankev. “Tsu der Biografye fun a Dikhterin” [Toward the biography of a woman writer]. Tog-Morgn-zhurnal. Sunday supplement (September 19, 1965), 14: 7.
Hofshteyn, D., and P. Shames. “Poetik: Elementn fun Ritm un Stil” [Poetics: Elements of rhythm and style]. In Literatur Kentenish (Ershter Teyl) (1928).
Niger, Sh. “Di Ertseylungen fun Fradl Shtok” [The short stories of Fradel Shtok]. Tsukunft (October 1920): 608–609.
Olgin, Moissaye. “Pesimizm” [Pessimism]. Di Naye Velt (January 9, 1920): 16–17.
Reyzen, Zalmen. “Fradl Shtok.” Leksikon fun der Yidisher Literatur, Prese un Filologye 4 (1929): 572–574.
Tabatshnik, Avrom. “Fradl Shtok un der Sonet” [Fradel Shtok and the sonnet]. In Dikhter un Dikhtung (1965).