The custom of wearing wigs in public was established and spread amongst Jewish women about 170 years ago. This was during the time of many harsh decrees against the Jews in Europe and on the heels of the growth and spreading of the "Maskilim" (enlightened) who were after the total destruction of our religious observance. They even succeeded in uprooting the law of head covering completely, so that even in the houses of G-d fearing and upright Jews in Lithuania the wives were going with their hair completely uncovered.
This is mentioned in the Aruch Hashulchan (siman 75:7)
And now let us scream out about this breach of modesty happening now in our generation due to our many sins. For many years now the daughters of Israel have broken the boundaries of modesty and have gone with their heads uncovered. And all that we have cried out regarding this matter has not helped or benefitted. And now this parasite has spread so that even married women are going with their hair revealed just like unmarried girls. Woe to us that this has happened in our days.
Also known are the words of the Gaon Rav Shlomo Kluger of blessed memory in the sefer "Bishnot Chayim"(siman 316), That in his days there was a royal decree in Russia that forbade all the married women from covering their hair. Therefore, in order to minimize the violation of modesty by them going with their hair completely uncovered, the Rabbis at that time permitted them to wear wigs which was the lesser of the two evils.
Similarly it is recorded in the sefer "Ben Ish Chai" (Year 1, Parashat Bo #12), The women in the European countries are accustomed to go always with their hair uncovered.
And in opposition to this gloomy condition that many women had completely abandoned the mitzvah of covering their hair, the Chafetz Chaim wrote an entire sefer entitled "Geder Olam" in order to challenge and try to regain control of this terrible breach in modesty.
Therefore, in order to get them to comply with hair covering at all, we were forced to permit them the wearing of wigs so that they would not be going with their hair uncovered outright. And after the decrees were cancelled, the custom of wearing wigs remained since they had grown used to it. This matter continued and worsened over time until the whole reason why the despicable and evil custom of wig wearing was permitted in the first place became completely forgotten to them, until nowadays, women who wear wigs in public think that they are acting in accordance with the strictest levels of the law of hair covering. Woe to us, look to where we have fallen!
Therefore, the time has come for the holy daughters of Israel to free themselves from the decrees of our cruel and wicked enemies! (From the words of Rav Binyamin Rubinovich in a letter he wrote as an approbation to the book "Dat Moshe VeYisrael")
Therefore it is a holy obligation for every Rav and teacher in Israel in whose congregation this parasite of wig wearing has spread, to learn the sugya in its entirety and to rebuke the congregation with gentleness that there is really no permissibility under Jewish law to go out with a wig looking like the women who roam the streets at night. We must remove this plague from our houses and this evil from our midst, and return the crown to its former glory to be crowned with modesty. Women should go with a cloth head covering only as this is how our mothers used to look; and this is also in accordance with the halachic rulings of our Rabbis. May Hashem help us in this matter pertaining to the honor of His Name, and may we succeed in fencing in this breach speedily and in our days amen.
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