Magdalene asylum

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Unidentified Magdalene laundry in Ireland, c. early twentieth century, reproduced from Frances Finnegan, Do Penance or Perish (Fig. 9), Congrave Press, 2001

Magdalene asylums, also known as Magdalene institutions and Magdalene laundries, were institutions from the 18th to the late 20th centuries ostensibly to house "fallen women", a term used to imply female sexual promiscuity or work in prostitution. Asylums operated throughout Europe and North America for much of the nineteenth and well into the twentieth century.

The first Magdalen institution, Magdalen Hospital for the Reception of Penitent Prostitutes, was founded in late 1758 in London and was active to 1966. The institutions were named after Mary Magdalene, in earlier centuries characterised as a converted prostitute in the Bible.

The first asylum in Ireland opened on Leeson Street in Dublin in 1765, founded by Lady Arabella Denny. The original idea of the rescue movement was to provide alternative work for prostitutes who could not find regular employment because of their background. In Belfast the Church of Ireland-run Ulster Magdalene Asylum was founded in 1839, while parallel institutions were run by Catholics and Presbyterians. The last such institution in Ireland closed in 1996.[1][2]

While the number of young women who lived in Magdalen Laundries is unclear, an Irish government report found that approximately 10,000 women are known to have entered a Magdalen Laundry from 1922 until the closure of the last Laundry in 1996.[3]


The first Magdalen institution was founded in late 1758 in Whitechapel, England.[4] It was so successful, it led to "the establishment of a similar institution in Ireland" by 1767.[4] Magdalen asylums were not unique to the United Kingdom, however. In the United States, for example, the first such institution, the Magdalen Society of Philadelphia, was founded in 1800; many other North American cities, including New York, Boston, Chicago, and Toronto, quickly followed Philadelphia's example and opened their own Magdalen facilities for "fallen" women.[5][6] In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Magdalen asylums were common all around the world.[5] By 1900, there were more than 300 institutions for "fallen" women in England, and more than 20 north of the border in Scotland.[4][7]

Irish laundries[edit]


Magdalene Laundry in England, early twentieth century, from Frances Finnegan, Do Penance or Perish (Fig. 5) Congrave Press, 2001

The Dublin Magdalen Asylum in Lower Leeson Street was the first such institution in Ireland. Founded in 1765 by Lady Arabella Denny,[8] Ireland's Magdalen asylums, or laundries, survived the longest. The last Magdalen asylum didn't close until 1996. Ireland's Magdalen laundries were quietly supported by the state, and operated by religious communities for more than two hundred years.

There isn't anything exclusively "Irish" or "Catholic" about these institutions, but Smith asserts that the "Irish variety took on a distinct character".[9] The stigma attached to illegitimacy and promiscuity was so severe that the woman was often thrown out of her home, driven from her community, disowned by her family. And for many, the laundries were the only things that stood between them and the street.[6] Though they were not criminals, they were systematically sent to the Magdalen laundries. Penitents were required to work, primarily in laundries, since the facilities were self-supporting and not funded by the state or religious denominations. Parrot and Cummings wrote that "The cost of violence, oppression and brutalization of women is enormous" and in their struggle to survive, these Magdalens suffered not only physically, but spiritually and emotionally.[10]

As the Magdalene movement became increasingly distant from the original idea of the rescue movement—finding alternative work for prostitutes who could not find regular employment because of their background—the asylums became increasingly prison-like. Supervising sisters were instructed to encourage the women into penance, rather than merely berating them and blocking their escape attempts.[citation needed]

The Congregation of the Sisters of Misericorde is described by the Catholic Encyclopedia: "In receiving patients no discrimination is made in regard to religion, colour, or nationality. After their convalescence, those who desire to remain in the home are placed under a special sister and are known as 'Daughters of St. Margaret'. They follow a certain rule of life but contract no religious obligations. Should they desire to remain in the convent, after a period of probation, they are allowed to become Magdalens and eventually make the vows of the Magdalen institute. The congregation celebrated its fiftieth anniversary 16 January 1898."[11]

In Belfast the Church of Ireland-run Ulster Magdalene Asylum was founded in 1839 on Donegall Pass, while parallel institutions were run by Catholics on Ormeau Road and by Presbyterians on Whitehall Parade.[12]

When the last laundries finally closed, most of the resident women had nowhere to go. Many of them now reside in group homes and convents around the country.[6]

Fallen women[edit]

In the late 18th century, the term "fallen women" primarily referred to prostitutes, but by the end of the 19th century, Magdalen laundries were filled with many different kinds of women, including girls who were "not prostitutes at all", but either "seduced women" or women who had yet to engage in sexual activity.[13][not in citation given] According to Francis Finnegan, author of Do Penance or Perish: A Study of Magdalen Asylums in Ireland, "Missionaries were required to approach prostitutes and distribute religious tracts, designed to be read in 'sober' moments and divert women from their vicious lives".[14] Furthermore, "the consignment even of genuine prostitutes" to these laundries "seldom reduced their numbers on the streets, any more than did an individuals prostitute's death", because, according to Finnegan, "so long as poverty continued, and the demand for public women remained, such losses were easily replaced".[14] Raftery wrote that the institutions were failing to achieve their supposed objective; "the institutions had little impact on prostitution over the period", and yet they were continuing to multiply, expand and, most importantly, profit from the free labor. Since they were not paid, Raftery asserted, "it seems clear that these girls were used as a ready source of free labour for these laundry businesses".[15] Additionally, the state of Ireland and its government was heavily intertwined with religion. Finnegan wrote:

The issue of continued demand for prostitutes was barely confronted, so absorbed were moralists with the disgraceful and more visible evidence of supply. And while acknowledging that poverty, overcrowded slum housing and lack of employment opportunities fuelled the activity…they shirked the wider issues, insisting on individual moral (rather than social) reform.[16]

Finnegan wrote that based on historical records,[which?] the religious institutes had motivations other than simply wanting to curtail prostitution; these multiple motivations led to the multiplication of these facilities.[17] According to Finnegan, as the motivations started to range from a need to maintain social and moral order within the bounds of patriarchal structure, to a desire to continue profiting from a free workforce, Magdalen laundries became a part of a large structure of suppression.[17] With the multiplication of these institutions and the subsequent and "dramatic rise" in the number of beds available within them, Finnegan wrote that the need to staff the laundries "became increasingly urgent".[17] This urgency, Finnegan claims, resulted in a new definition of "fallen" women, one that was much less precise and was expanding to include any women who appeared to challenge traditional notions of Irish morality. He further asserted that this new definition resulted in even more suffering, "especially among those increasing numbers who were not prostitutes but unmarried mothers – forced to give up their babies as well as their lives".[18][19] And as this concept of "fallen" expanded, so did the facilities, in both physical size and role in society.


Several religious institutes established even more Irish laundries, reformatories and industrial schools, sometimes all together on the same plot of land, with the aim to "save the souls primarily of women and children".[20] These "large complexes" became a "massive interlocking system…carefully and painstakingly built up…over a number of decades"; and consequently, Magdalen laundries became part of Ireland's "larger system for the control of children and women" (Raftery 18). Women and "bastard" children were both "incarcerated for transgressing the narrow moral code of the time" and the same religious congregations managed the orphanages, reformatory schools and laundries.[20][21] Thus, these facilities "all helped sustain each other – girls from the reformatory and industrial schools often ended up working their entire lives in the Magdalen laundries".[20] Almost all the institutions were run by female religious congregations,” i.e. sisters, and were scattered throughout the country "in prominent locations in towns and cities".[21] In this way, according to Raftery, they were powerful and pervasive, able to effectively control the lives of women and children from "all classes".[22] This second incarnation of Magdalen laundries vastly differed from the first incarnation, due to their "longevity" and "their diverse community of female inmates, including hopeless cases, mental defectives…[and] transfers from industrial and reformatory schools".[23] These particular institutions intentionally shared "overriding characteristics, including a regime of prayer, silence, work in a laundry, and a preference for permanent inmates", which, as Smith notes, "contradicts the religious congregations' stated mission to protect, reform, and rehabilitate".[23] As this expansion was taking place and these laundries were becoming a part of a large network of institutions, the treatment of the girls was becoming increasingly violent and abusive. According to Finnegan and Smith, the asylums became "particularly cruel", "more secretive" in nature and "emphatically more punitive".[18][19] Though these women had committed no crime and had never been put on trial, their indefinite incarceration was enforced by locked doors, iron gates and prison guards in the form of apathetic sisters.[citation needed] By 1920, according to Smith, Magdalen laundries had almost entirely abandoned claims of rehabilitation and instead, were "seamlessly incorporated into the state's architecture of containment".[19]

According to historian Frances Finnegan, in the beginning of these asylums' existence, because many of the women had a background as prostitutes, the women (who were called "children") were regarded as "in need of penitence", and until the 1970s were required to address all staff members as "mother" regardless of age. To enforce order and maintain a monastic atmosphere, the inmates were required to observe strict silence for much of the day.

As the phenomenon became more widespread, it extended beyond prostitution to petty criminals, orphans, mentally disabled women and abused girls. A 2013 report made by an inter-departmental committee chaired by Senator Martin McAleese found no evidence of unmarried women giving birth in the asylum.[24] Even young girls who were considered too promiscuous and flirtatious, or too beautiful, were sent to an asylum by their families.[citation needed] This paralleled the practice in state-run lunatic asylums in Britain and Ireland in the same period, where many people with alleged "social dysfunction" were committed to asylums.[citation needed] Without a family member on the outside who could vouch for them, many incarcerated individuals stayed in the asylums for the rest of their lives, many taking religious vows.[citation needed]

Given Ireland's historically conservative sexual values, Magdalen asylums were a generally accepted social institution until well into the second half of the twentieth century.[citation needed] They disappeared with changes in sexual mores[citation needed]—or, as Finnegan suggests, as they ceased to be profitable: "Possibly the advent of the washing machine has been as instrumental in closing these laundries as have changing attitudes."[25]

Numbers of inmates[edit]

An estimated 30,000 women were confined in these institutions in the 19th and 20th centuries,[26] about 10,000 of whom were admitted since Ireland's independence in 1922.[27] Smith asserts that "we do not know how many women resided in the Magdalen institutions" after 1900.[19] Vital information about the women's circumstances, the number of women, and the consequences of their incarceration is unknown. "We have no official history for the Magdalen asylum in twentieth-century Ireland", Smith wrote.[28] Due to the religious institutes' "policy of secrecy", their penitent registers and convent annals remain closed to this day, despite repeated requests for information.[29][30] As a direct result of these missing records and the religious institutes' commitment to secrecy, Magdalen laundries can only exist "at the level of story rather than history".[28] Though Ireland's last Magdalen asylum imprisoned women until 1996, there are no records to account for "almost a full century" of women who now "constitute the nation's disappeared", who were "excluded, silenced, or punished", and who Smith says "did not matter or matter enough" to a society that "sought to negate and render invisible their challenges" to conceived notions of moral order.[19]

Discovery of a mass grave[edit]

In 1993 an institute of sisters, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, in Dublin, sold part of their convent to a property developer.[31] This led to the discovery of a mass grave on the site,[32] where the corpses of 133 "penitents" were uncovered.[33] The Sisters arranged to have the remains cremated and reburied in another mass grave at Glasnevin Cemetery, splitting the cost of the reburial with the developer who had bought the land.[34] However, it transpired that there were 22 more bodies buried than the sisters had applied for permission to exhume.[34] In all, 155 corpses were exhumed and cremated.[32][34]

Though not initially reported, this eventually triggered a public scandal and became national news, bringing unprecedented attention to the intensely secretive institutions. In 1999, Mary Norris, Josephine McCarthy and Mary-Jo McDonagh, all asylum inmates, gave accounts of their treatment. The 1997 Channel 4 documentary Sex in a Cold Climate interviewed former inmates of Magdalene Asylums who testified to continued sexual,[citation needed] psychological and physical abuse while being isolated from the outside world for an indefinite amount of time. Allegations about the conditions in the convents and the treatment of the inmates were made into an award-winning 2002 film The Magdalene Sisters, written and directed by Peter Mullan.[35]

In June 2011, Mary Raftery wrote in the The Irish Times that in the early 1940s, some Irish state institutions, such as the army, switched from commercial laundries to "institutional laundries" (Magdalene laundries).[36] At the time, there was concern in the Dáil that workers in commercial laundries were losing jobs because of the switch to institutional laundries.[36] Oscar Traynor, Minister for Defence, said the contracts with the Magdalene laundries "contain a fair wages clause", though the women in those laundries did not receive wages.[36]

The Irish Times revealed that a ledger listed Áras an Uachtaráin, Guinness, Clerys, the Gaiety Theatre, Dr Steevens' Hospital, the Bank of Ireland, the Department of Defence, the Departments of Agriculture and Fisheries, CIÉ, Portmarnock Golf Club, Clontarf Golf Club and several leading hotels amongst those who used a Magdalene laundry.[37] This was unearthed by Steven O' Riordan, a young Irish film-maker who directed and produced a documentary, The Forgotten Maggies.[38] It is the only Irish-made documentary on the subject and was launched at The Galway Film Fleadh 2009.[38] It was screened on the Irish television station TG4 in 2011, attracting over 360,000 viewers. The documentary's website notes that a group called Magdalene Survivors Together was set up after the release of the documentary, because so many Magdalene women came forward after its airing. The women who appeared in the documentary were the first Magdalene women to meet with Irish government officials. They brought national and international attention to the subject.[citation needed]

Inquiry into child abuse[edit]

In May 2009, the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse released a 2,000-page report recording claims from hundreds of Irish residents that they were physically, sexually, or emotionally abused as children between the 1930s and the 1990s in a network of state-administered and church-run residential schools meant to care for the poor, the vulnerable and the unwanted.[39] The alleged abuse was by sisters, priests and non-clerical staff and helpers.[40] The allegations of abuse cover many Catholic (Magdalene), Protestant (Bethany) and State-run Irish Industrial schools.

The commission stated:

There were two types of inquiry, one drawing on contested evidence (Investigation Committee) and the other on uncontested evidence (Confidential Committee), which reported to the commission. The commission received evidence from more than 1,500 witnesses who attended or were residents as children in schools and care facilities in the state, particularly industrial and reformatory schools.[41]

Since 2001, the Irish government has acknowledged that women in the Magdalene laundries were victims of abuse. However, the Irish government has resisted calls for investigation and proposals for compensation; it maintains the laundries were privately run and abuses at the laundries are outside the government's remit.[31] In contrast to these claims, evidence exists that Irish courts routinely sent women convicted of petty crimes to the laundries, the government awarded lucrative contracts to the laundries without any insistence on protection and fair treatment of their workers, and Irish state employees helped keep laundry facilities stocked with workers by bringing women to work there and returning escaped workers.[31]

Notwithstanding the investigations instigated by the government in the Republic of Ireland, similar investigations have yet to be instigated in Northern Ireland and worldwide.

2013 publication of inquiry report[edit]

Having lobbied the government of Ireland for two years to investigate the history of the Magdalene laundries, advocacy group Justice for Magdalenes presented its case to the United Nations Committee Against Torture,[31] alleging that the conditions within the Magdalene laundries and the exploitation of their labourers amounted to human-rights violations.[31] On 6 June 2011, the panel urged Ireland to "investigate allegations that for decades women and girls sent to work in Catholic laundries were tortured."[42][43] In response the Irish government set up a committee chaired by Senator Martin McAleese, to establish the facts of the Irish state's involvement with the Magdalene laundries.[44]

Following the 18-month inquiry, the committee published[45][46][47] its report on 5 February 2013, finding "significant" state collusion in the admission of thousands of women into the institutions.[48][49][50][51] The report found over 11,000 women had entered laundries since 1922.[24] Significant levels of verbal abuse to women inside was reported but there were no suggestions of regular physical or sexual abuse.[24] Elderly survivors said they would go on hunger strike over the failure of successive Irish governments to set up a financial redress scheme for the thousands of women enslaved there.[52] Taoiseach Enda Kenny, while professing sorrow at the abuses revealed, did not issue an immediate apology, prompting criticism from other members of Dáil Éireann. Kenny promised "there would be a full Dáil debate on the report in two weeks' time when people had an opportunity to read the report". Survivors were critical that an apology had not been immediately forthcoming.[53]

Official state apology and compensation package[edit]

On 19 February 2013, Kenny officially issued a full state apology to the women of the Magdalene Laundries.[54] He described the laundries as "the nation's shame" and said, "Therefore, I, as Taoiseach, on behalf of the State, the government and our citizens deeply regret and apologise unreservedly to all those women for the hurt that was done to them, and for any stigma they suffered, as a result of the time they spent in a Magdalene Laundry."[55][56]

The Taoiseach also outlined part of the compensation package to be offered to victims of the Magdalene Laundries. He stated: "That's why the Government has today asked the President of the Law Reform Commission Judge John Quirke to undertake a three month review and to make recommendations as to the criteria that should be applied in assessing the help that the government can provide in the areas of payments and other supports, including medical card, psychological and counselling services and other welfare needs."[57]

Catholic perspective[edit]

In February 2013, a few days after the publication of the McAleese Report, two sisters gave an interview for RTÉ Radio 1 under conditions of complete anonymity for themselves and their institute. They described the Irish media coverage of the abuse at the laundries (which they claimed not to have participated in), as a "one-sided anti-Catholic forum". They displayed no remorse for the institutes' past: "Apologize for what? Apologize for providing a service? We provided a free service for the country". They complained that "All the shame of the era is being dumped on the religious orders . . . the sins of society are being placed on us". On hearing the interview, a survivors' group later announced to the press that they were "shocked, horrified and enormously upset" by the sisters' portrayal of events.[58]

In a detailed commentary by the president of the Catholic League, a U.S. advocacy group, published in July 2013, it is claimed that "No one was imprisoned, nor forced against her will to stay. There was no slave labor ... It’s all a lie." The inmates are described as "prostitutes, and women seen as likely candidates for the 'world’s oldest profession'. Unmarried women, especially those who gave birth out-of-wedlock, were likely candidates. Contrary to what has been reported, the laundries were not imposed on these women: they were a realistic response to a growing social problem [prostitution]."[59]

Historically, there has been a culture of secrecy surrounding the institutions. In 1955, while the abuse of inmates was still occurring, the acclaimed English writer Halliday Sutherland was touring Ireland to collect material for his book Irish Journey. When he applied for permission to visit the Galway asylum, the local bishop reluctantly granted him access only on condition that he allow his account to be censored by the Mother Superior.[60][61][62]

To date, the religious congregations that ran the establishments have refused requests to release their records.[29][30] To the shock and outrage of survivors, all four religious institutes, the Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Good Shepherd Sisters, and the Sisters of Charity, have also refused repeated requests from the Irish government and survivors' campaigners to contribute to the compensation fund for victims, an estimated 600 of whom were still alive in March 2014.[63][64]


There are no precise figures for the number of girls who worked in the eight Magdalene laundries, run by the Good Shepherd Sisters, in twentieth-century Australia because Good Shepherd has not released their records. As a result of the 2004 Senate report "Forgotten Australians"[65] it is known that the Good Shepherd laundries in Australia acted as prisons for the girls who were forced to labor in workhouses laundering linen for local hospitals or commercial premises. The report also described the conditions as characterized by inedible food, unhygienic living conditions and little or no education. In 2008, Senator Andrew Murray likened the Convent of the Good Shepherd 'The Pines', Adelaide to a prisoner-of-war camp.[66]

United States[edit]

Conditions in North American asylums were different and, arguably, better than the more oppressive conditions of Irish institutions. Asylum records show that in the early history of the Magdalene movement, many women entered and left the institutions of their own accord, sometimes repeatedly. Lu Ann De Cunzo wrote in her book, Reform, Respite, Ritual: An Archaeology of Institutions; The Magdalene Society of Philadelphia, 1800-1850,[67] that the women in Philadelphia's asylum "sought a refuge and a respite from disease, the prison or almshouse, unhappy family situations, abusive men and dire economic circumstances."

In its early years, the Magdalen Society Asylum functioned as a refuge for prostitutes. Most of these stayed only a few days or a few weeks, just long enough to get reclothed and recuperated. Attempts at rehabilitation met with little success. In 1877, the asylum was changed into a home for wayward girls, with a rule requiring a stay for twelve months. As the Magdalen Society Asylum became more selective, relaxed its emphasis on personal guilt and salvation, and standardized in some respects the treatment of the inmates, its rate of failure diminished.[68]

Manhattan's Magdalen Society was established in 1830 with the purpose of rescuing women from lives of prostitution and vice— sometimes kidnapping them from brothels. In 1907 a new home in the Inwood section of the Bronx. This was the second time the Society found it necessary to move to a larger facility. Many of the young women who passed through the doors of the Inwood institution had worked the taverns, brothels and alleyways of lower Manhattan before being “rescued” by the Society. Girls were generally committed for a period of three years. Through the years several girls were killed or injured climbing out of windows in failed escape attempts. In 1917 the Magdalen Benevolent Society changed its name to Inwood House. In the early 1920s bichloride of mercury was commonly used to treat new arrivals for venereal disease, resulting in a number of cases of mercury poisoning. The property was later sold and the agency relocated. Inwood House continues to operate, with its main focus on teen pregnancy. The administrative office is in Manhattan.[69]

Media representations[edit]

The Magdalene Sisters[edit]

Main article: The Magdalene Sisters

The Magdalene Sisters, a 2002 film by Peter Mullan, is a work of fiction, based on historical facts. James Smith wrote that "Mullan offsets the long historical silence" that allowed the laundries and the violations of the religious institutes to "maintain their secrecy and invisibility".[70] The Magdalene Sisters' narrative is centered on four young women incarcerated in a Dublin Magdalen Laundry from 1964 to 1968. The film is loosely based on and "largely inspired" by the 1998 documentary Sex in a Cold Climate, which documents four survivors' accounts of their experiences in Ireland's Magdalen institutions.[71] One survivor who saw Mullan's film claimed that the reality of Magdalen asylums was "a thousand times worse".[72][73] The film is a product of a collective, including the four survivors (Martha Cooney, Christina Mulcahy, Phyllis Valentine, Brigid Young) who told their story in Sex in a Cold Climate, the historical consultant and researchers of the documentary who contributed historical information (Miriam Akhtar, Beverely Hopwood and Frances Finnegan), the directors of both movies (Steve Humphries and Peter Mullan, respectively), the screenwriter of The Magdalene Sisters who created a narrative (Peter Mullan again) and the actors in the film.

Other film and stage[edit]

  • Sex in a Cold Climate - a 1998 documentary directed by Steve Humphries (historical consultant: Frances Finnegan) presenting interviews of four women interred in various Magdalene asylums and orphanages because of out-of-wedlock pregnancies, being sexually assaulted, or just being "too pretty".
  • Les Blanchisseuses de Magdalene - a France 3/Sunset Presse documentary 1998.[citation needed] (historical consultant: Frances Finnegan)
  • The Magdalen Whitewash, a play about the laundries, was written by Valerie Goodwin and performed by the Coolmine Drama group at the Draíocht Arts Centre in Dublin, in 2002.[74]
  • Eclipsed, a play about the Magdalene Laundries, was written[citation needed] by Patricia Burke-Brogan in the 1980s. Burke-Brogan had worked in the laundries in the 1960s. Eclipsed was first performed in 1992.
  • The Quane's Laundry, a play about the Magdalene laundries, set in Dublin in 1900 was written by Imelda Murphy 2007.[citation needed]
  • Sinners (2002), TV movie. Director Aisling Walsh, Writer Lizzie Mickery, Editor Scott Howard Thomas

Literature and reportage[edit]

  • Do Penance or Perish: Magdalen Asylums in Ireland by historian Frances Finnegan published (hardback) Congrave Press Ireland, 2001; and (paperback) Oxford University Press, 2004. The first book to be published on the topic and still the definitive study, it is based on 21 years' research. Using a wide range of sources including the Annals and Penitents' Registers of the Good Shepherd archives, the book examines the history, purpose and inmates of the institutions. ISBN 0-9540921-0-4.
  • James M. Smith's Ireland's Magdalene Laundries and the Nation's Architecture of Containment won the 2007 Donald Murphy Prize for a Distinguished First Book from the American Conference for Irish Studies. ISBN 978-0-268-04127-4
  • Rachel Dilworth's The Wild Rose Asylum: Poems of the Magdalen Laundries of Ireland, the 2008 winner of the Akron Poetry Prize, is a collection of poems based on the Magdalene Laundries.[75]
  • In the Shadow of Eden is an award-winning[76] short memoir by Rachael Romero.[77] Using vintage footage and photos of what led up to her incarceration in the Convent of the Good Shepherd (Magdalene) Laundries in South Australia, Romero outlines her experience there.
  • For The Love of My Mother by J.P. Rodgers tells the story of his Irish mother, born into a life of poverty and detained at the age of two for begging in the streets. Bridget Rodgers spent the next 30 years of her life locked away in one institution or another, including the Magdalen Laundries.
  • The Magadalen Martyrs is a 2003 crime novel written by Ken Bruen. In the third episode of Bruen's Jack Taylor series, Jack Taylor is given a mission: "Find the Angel of the Magdalene", actually a devil incarnate nicknamed Lucifer, a woman who "helped" the unfortunate martyrs incarcerated in the infamous laundry.
  • Kathy's Story: The True Story of a Childhood Hell Inside Ireland's Magdalen Laundries (ISBN 978-1553651680) by Kathy O'Beirne alleges that she suffered physical and sexual abuse in a Magdalene laundry in Ireland.
  • Kathy's Real Story: A Culture of False Allegations Exposed (ISBN 978-1906351007) by journalist Hermann Kelly, published by Prefect Press in 2007, alleges that O'Beirne's allegations are false.[78]
  • "Magdalene Laundry Survivor. The Irish government admits it played a major role in forcing women into work camps." on the CBC radio show As It Happens on February 5, 2013. Audio here:[79]
  • Irish Journey by Halliday Sutherland. Dr Sutherland visited the Magdalene Laundry in Galway in April 1955 and wrote of the visit in the book. Sutherland met the Bishop of Galway to seek permission for the visit. Permission was granted on condition that anything he wrote about the Laundry be approved by the Mother Superior of the Sisters of Mercy. Accordingly, Sutherland's account in "Irish Journey" was censored.[80] Following discovery of the publisher's manuscript in a cellar in 2013, the uncensored version was published on in an article "The Suitcase in the Cellar".


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Alison Roberts (2003). "The Magdalene Laundry". 
  2. ^ Garth Toyntanen (2008). Institutionalised. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-9558501-0-3. 
  3. ^ McDonald, H. (5 February 2013). "Ireland finally admits state collusion in Magdalene Laundry system". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  4. ^ a b c ^ Finnegan 8
  5. ^ a b ^ Smith xv
  6. ^ a b c Feng, Violet. "The Magdalene Laundry", Sixty Minutes, CBS, August 8, 2003
  7. ^ "Magdalen Hospital for the Reception of Penitent Prostitutes". Retrieved 18 February 2013.
  8. ^ McCarthy, Rebecca Lea (2010). Origins of the Magdalene laundries: an analytical history. McFarland. p. 238. ISBN 978-0-7864-4446-5. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  9. ^ Smith xiv
  10. ^ Parrot, Cummings 50
  11. ^ "Congregation of the Sisters of Misericorde". Catholic Encyclopedia. 
  12. ^ Government, politics and institutions in Belfast in the early twentieth century - National Archives of Ireland
  13. ^ Greene, Amy. "Fallen Women". Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  14. ^ a b ^ Finnegan 15
  15. ^ Raftery 162.
  16. ^ Finnegan 17
  17. ^ a b c ^ Finnegan 10-11
  18. ^ a b ^ Finnegan 28
  19. ^ a b c d e ^ Smith 42
  20. ^ a b c ^ Raftery 18.
  21. ^ a b ^ Raftery 19.
  22. ^ Raftery 284
  23. ^ a b ^ Smith xv, xvi
  24. ^ a b c "Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries". Department of Justice and Equality. Retrieved 29 June 2013. Page citations needed.
  25. ^ Finnegan.
  26. ^ Fintan O'Toole (16 February 2003). "The sisters of no mercy". The Observer. Retrieved 25 July 2014. 
  27. ^ Bruno Waterfield (5 Feb 2013). "Ireland apologises for Magdalene laundries". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 25 July 2014. 
  28. ^ a b ^ Smith 138
  29. ^ a b Raftery 9
  30. ^ a b Smith xvi
  31. ^ a b c d e Ryan, Carol. "Irish Church's Forgotten Victims Take Case to U.N." The New York Times, 25 May 2011.
  32. ^ a b Anna Carey (17 July 2013). "Depressing but not surprising: how the Magdalene Laundries got away with it". New Statesman. Retrieved 25 July 2014. 
  33. ^ Violet Feng (8 August 2003). CBS Retrieved 25 July 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  34. ^ a b c Mary Raftery (8 June 2011). "Ireland's Magdalene laundries scandal must be laid to rest". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 July 2014. 
  35. ^ "Controversial film 'Sisters' hits DVD". The Michigan Daily. 2004-04-15. Retrieved 2013-11-03. 
  36. ^ a b c Raftery, Mary (20 June 2011). "State apology is only way to express wrong done to Magdalenes". The Irish Times. Retrieved 22 June 2011. 
  37. ^ McGarry, Patsy (22 June 2011). "Áras an Uachtaráin among users of Magdalene laundry". The Irish Times. Retrieved 23 June 2011. 
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Further reading[edit]

  • Ferriter, Diarmaid (2005). The transformation of Ireland, 1900–2000. Profile Books. p. 538. ISBN 978-1-86197-443-3. 
  • Finnegan, Frances (2001). Do Penance or Perish: A Study of Magdalene Asylums in Ireland. Piltown, Co. Kilkenny: Congrave Press. ISBN 0-9540921-0-4. 
  • Raftery, Mary; Eoin O'Sullivan (1999). Suffer the Little Children: The Inside Story of Ireland's Industrial Schools. Dublin: New Island. ISBN 1-874597-83-9. 
  • Sixsmith, Martin (2009). The Lost Child of Philomena Lee: A Mother, Her Son and a Fifty-Year Search. London: Macmillan. ISBN 9780230744271. OCLC 373479096.  The Lost Child of Philomena Lee at Google Books (another edition).
  • Smith, James M (2007). Ireland's Magdalen Laundries and the Nation's Architecture of Containment. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-7888-0. 
  • Parrot, Andrea; Nina Cummings (2006). Forsaken Females: The Global Brutalization of Women. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0742545786. 

External links[edit]