The girls are not alright

by Maria on February 12, 2013

In Sydney, there’s a restored old barracks in the central business district. From 1848, all single female immigrants came through there before being funneled on to jobs as maids or farm girls. Many were Irish, part of a government scheme to get poor women out of work-houses or other bad situations and send them to Australia where there weren’t enough women to work and marry.

Hyde Park Barracks is a wonderful museum; imaginative and unflinching. Visiting it a month ago, I was moved to angry tears. In a darkened room at the end of a bare wood hall, there were photographs, stories and artifacts of these would-be servant girls. The centerpiece was a battered wooden trunk, about the size of my council recycling bin. Each girl got one to carry everything she might need to a place she would never come home from. She was issued with a Bible, nighties and knickers, a comb and some soap.

This often involuntary transportation was actually a really good option for many girls. Most went on to marry and often outlive husbands, and support and raise families all over Australia. They are shown photographed formally as old women in high, white lace collars and stiff black crepe dresses, the very picture of Victorian respectability; proud, upright, straining just a bit forward, not to show how far they have come, but as if to imply they have always been so prosperous.

What upset me was how unwanted they were, first in Ireland, then in England, and finally in Australia. Irish peasant girls were considered dirty, cheeky and most likely fallen. They were damaged goods. (The good Protestant burghers of bootstrapping Sydney were alarmed at the influx of Catholic breeders, too.) My heart ached for those cheerful, ignorant, doughty girls who pitched up on a then-despised shore to find out even the people there thought they were lazy sluts.

In history and politics, we give a lot of thought to the Young Turk problem; what to do about young, un- or under-employed men to stop them fomenting nationalist revolution, bombing airports or stealing Nikes. But what about the young women societies consider troublesome or surplus? Those nineteenth century Irish girls were relatively lucky. They might scramble onto a ladder of progress, albeit the bottom rung. In Ireland in the twentieth century, we simply locked them up and threw away the key.

Last week, the report on Ireland’s Magdalen laundries was published. From 1900 until the last one shut in 1996*, thirty thousand women were detained as forced labour in ten religious institutions around the country. They included petty criminals on remand, young female offenders (Ireland had no borstal for girls), unmarried mothers, the mentally disabled, unwanted step-children and girls who had aged out of state orphanages. A number were simply placed there without comment in their record by family members, priests or the Legion of Mary.

The girls were stripped of their names, hair, clothes and the chance of an education, and made to work for years without pay in laundries attached to closed convents. The laundries were much less violent places than the state orphanages many had ‘graduated’ from, but they were thick with what we now call verbal and mental abuse, and the most common punishment seems to have been deprivation of food. It would be wrong to underplay the perfectly avoidable mental anguish the girls and women suffered.

The report includes accounts of bewildered girls taken from their complicit families in the back of the parish priest’s car, and deposited without warning or explanation in the convent parlour. One woman says she told a nun at her school that she was being ‘interfered with’, and found herself blamed and imprisoned. The cruelest part was that they often weren’t told why they were put away or when they might be let out. When they were let out – without notice or the chance to say goodbye to their friends – the deep social stigma and fear of being taken again meant many fled to England and America. Their ties with family and the places they came from were broken, and they had little or no education to help find any but the most menial jobs.

This is not a straightforward case of religious abuse; all of Irish society colluded in the imprisonment of troublesome girls. The question for the report is ‘how responsible is the Irish State?’. The State sent many girls to the laundries through the criminal justice system, but doesn’t seem to have bothered about how they were treated or when they would be released. Policemen captured and returned any escaped girls, not just those sentenced or placed on remand. Several of the laundries depended financially on State contracts. Legislation of the time set a wage requirement for all labour and required workers to be registered for their national insurance, but this was ignored when it came to the laundries. As a result, the aging survivors often have the most paltry pension entitlements.

The survivors have been excluded from compensation – unlike those from state orphanage – because the laundries operated in a grey area between Church and State. Last week, Taoiseach Enda Kenny gave what most consider a mealy-mouthed response to the report. It bears little resemblance to his justifiable outrage at the Church hierarchy’s self-serving cover-up of child sexual abuse. This week he wants to meet the survivors, but they’re holding back unless Kenny gives a good reason and stated outcome for the meeting. The women don’t wish to take part in a conscience-salving photo opportunity only to have all of Ireland turn its back on them again.

The last thing Ireland needs is another bill to pay, but this one pre-dates and trumps those of our well-to-do financial creditors. This time, the abuse is not just about the Church. Religious orders were the jailers, and the Church propagated the twisted values that made having sex or giving cheek punishable by indefinite incarceration. But it didn’t happen in a vacuum. Parents, older siblings and incoming wives kicked daughters out of family homes, and soothed themselves with pleasing lies about where those girls ended up. Hotels, hospitals and well-to-do housewives sent their dirty sheets to be washed at cost. (The report’s financial analysis shows, contrary to popular belief, that mostly closed religious orders made no profit on the laundries and probably subsidized them.) The common denominator in so many Magdalen stories isn’t sex, it’s money.

The laundries were not a dark secret hidden from most of society, but part of a punitive, denialist attitude to sex spliced together with everything ugly about our class system. The odd middle class girl was caught in the trap, but mostly it was poor families whose daughters stole or who acquiesced in having troublesome daughters taken off their hands. Poorer families might not have relatives well enough off to take in unwanted siblings, or the social and cultural standing to withstand a clerical browbeating.

The report includes the plaintive defense of a surviving nun; “Sure we were institutionalized, too.” You could read this as ‘we were just following orders’, or you could look harder at what she might have meant. When the girls entered the laundries they were at the bottom of the convent hierarchy, but only a rung or two below the lay nuns. Lay nuns were women from lower classes who didn’t have dowries or good educations when they entered the convent, and therefore spent their lives as cleaners with habits on. No one questioned it. The religious orders both acted as repositories for society’s unwanted troublesome girls, and reflected the mercenary social values that rendered those girls just above worthless.

Even if you do believe in a Whiggish notion of historical progress, it’s impossible to say nothing like this could happen now. We need to ask ourselves – those of us young enough to feel weightlessly innocent of the Magdalen and clerical sex abuse scandals – what would we have done to stop it, and what socially acceptable wickedness are we willfully not-noticing right now? What groupthink makes it only seem morally sound to ignore, say, the incarceration and mistreatment of asylum-seekers in the UK, or the slaughter of far away innocents by murder-drones?

It will only be progress when we stop waiting for today’s unwanted and mistreated to find their voices and holler loud enough to attract notice and extract justice – as a succession of groups from unmarried mothers to war-internees to refugees from each and every conflict we leap into eventually do – and instead go looking for them and see what can be done. Now. While it still counts.

  • Keeping the last Magdalen laundry open until 1996 must sound anachronistically brutal, but it may have been a mercy. I remember when it was finally shut down, hearing on the radio the horror and confusion of the few institutionalized old women left in it who had nowhere else to go.

{ 38 comments }

1

john b 02.12.13 at 6:08 pm

Sorry: riffing on the first four paragraphs, not the original point. Australia’s formative narrative (as a white people country) is as a part of the world where women were at a premium, simply because of the way it was formed.

1848 was shortly after transportation ended (1840). Before that, “fallen women” were transported, not least as a desperate British initiative to try and sort out the gender balance given that women do less crime than men and NSW was becoming a bit terrible.

By the 1850s, settlers were free, but the country was still overmanned, hence initiatives like the one above. Which have made a properly interesting impact on gender relations.

While Australian public attitudes are in many ways questionable, I think it is the place I’ve been/lived/worked that’s least fundamentally hostile to women, and that that’s probably based on the historical context of women in Australia.

2

Niall McAuley 02.12.13 at 6:33 pm

It wasn’t just the Catholic Church, either. Here, on the OS 25″ map of 1907, you can see the Episcopalian “Asylum for penitent Females” behind the church, beside the Laundry.

3

Sean Matthews 02.12.13 at 8:05 pm

It may not have been a ‘straightforward’ case of religious abuse,but religion was certainly a major fundamental cause. I grew up in Ireland, and I have no problem seeing a direct connection.

4

Niall McAuley 02.12.13 at 8:41 pm

No, that link I gave was to the Leeson Street Magdelen laundry, here is the Episcopalian one.

5

Antonio Conselheiro 02.12.13 at 8:47 pm

6

Main Street Muse 02.12.13 at 11:54 pm

Many years ago, I went to India on business, and one of the physicians we worked with talked about the devastating impact of colonialism. I think one can see this in Ireland as well.

And then there’s the Catholic Church, with its wicked hold on all things in Ireland. Clearly, women are – at best – subordinate in status within the Catholic Church. And though they don’t like abortion, the way the Church treats living, breathing defenseless children can only be defined as hellishly evil. It really does make you wonder just what the Church has against abortion, since dealing with the living child is such a problem for this institution, what with the global pedophilia scandal and the child abuse scandal that occurred over decades in Ireland (http://bit.ly/Y7xVlB).

7

Chingona 02.13.13 at 2:14 am

Australia’s formative narrative (as a white people country) is as a part of the world where women were at a premium, simply because of the way it was formed.

While Australian public attitudes are in many ways questionable, I think it is the place I’ve been/lived/worked that’s least fundamentally hostile to women, and that that’s probably based on the historical context of women in Australia.

How is treating women like a (sexual) commodity not hostile, john b?

8

Matt 02.13.13 at 3:11 am

Thanks for this post, Maria. I don’t have anything in particular to add, but it was very moving and useful. (For personal and professional reasons the bit on women sent to Australia is particularly interesting, but all of it was very good.)

9

maidhc 02.13.13 at 4:57 am

john b: Australia may be all right for women now, but up until 1966 women had to resign from the Public Service if they married. That included broadcasters on the ABC, scientists at CSIRO, etc.

Although women did get the vote in Australia earlier than many other countries.

The French government sent out unmarried women (“filles du roi”) to New France, and that project operated much differently than Australia. That terminated in 1673 though.

The Magdalen laundries were a disgrace, but not the only one imposed by the Church. Another example is the Public Dance Halls Act of 1935, which was aimed at eradicating traditional Irish music and dancing, the culmination of a campaign going back to the 19th century.

10

Emma in Sydney 02.13.13 at 7:42 am

On March 17 the Dictionary of Sydney, a history.project I used to work on, is publishing a bunch of new material in Sydney’s Irish history, including a piece on the immigrant girls of the Barracks. http://Www.dictionaryofsydney.org There’s been a lot of research into how they got on in the colony.

11

toby 02.13.13 at 10:23 am

I find it admirable that single Irish women emigrated from Ireland alone or in groups when they got the chance. It was an act of revolt and rejection, the only one open to them.

Male-dominated Ireland saw this as a reproach, and banning female emigration (apart from the family group) was occasionally mooted in the 20th century, up to the 1960s at least.

12

Lurker 02.13.13 at 1:43 pm

How is treating women like a (sexual) commodity not hostile, john b?

There are many shades of gray. In Western countries of 19th century, female domestic servants were very free to choose the husband they wanted. No one could stop them. In a country lacking in women, like Australia, this meant that finding a wife required, most likely, more effort from the man, leading to a society where woman’s wishes were generally paid more heed to.

We must remember that despite patriarchal structures, marriage was also a must for most men. For anyone not in the upper or upper middle class, marriage was the only economically viable way of having a respectable lifestyle. If you could not afford to hire a maid-servant, you needed a wife simply for daily chores like laundry and cooking, which take incredible amount of time without home appliances. The man’s work would take too much time, so a lower or lower middle class man would be doomed to shabbiness and badly prepared food without a wife.

13

Hidari 02.13.13 at 3:13 pm

“At a time when we should be doing everything to avoid past mistakes, we are demolishing human rights infrastructure

It’s the details of the report that make for bone-chilling reading: 20 people forced to share one shower and two handbasins; cramped wards with dozens of beds crammed together and no privacy; people hidden away from the community and stripped of dignity.

But this isn’t the Magdalene laundries report. Nor is it a dusty account of how the State treated its most vulnerable in a less enlightened era. It’s the contents of a report published by the Health Service Executive just over a year ago into conditions facing up to 4,000 people with intellectual disabilities who are currently living in antiquated institutions.

They live, for the most part, in publicly funded settings that are not subject to independent inspections or care standards. This is despite evidence that people with learning disabilities face a much higher risk of abuse or mistreatment.

At a time when many struggle to comprehend how the State could have played a central role in sending thousands of young women to Magdalene laundries many years ago, the same authorities are presiding over a system which is still marginalising its most vulnerable.”

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2013/0213/1224329979529.html

14

Mari Steed 02.13.13 at 3:50 pm

Very nicely done piece…thanks for this. And the Laundries (and our cause for justice for its survivors) serve as a stark reminder of the slippery slope it would be all too easy to slide back down. It goes without saying that many nations still provide abominable care for society’s most marginalised, but what should be remembered about the Irish Magdalene Laundries is they were providing commercial services for the State and public (laundry and sewing) and the women received no pay/pensions, and were often detained as prisoners.

15

rf 02.13.13 at 3:59 pm

The next, as of yet unexamined, controversy is going to have to be how the Irish state treated those in psychiatric hospitals, and used them in pretty mch the same way the did the laundaries (to lock people up for social reasons) .The new book ‘Coercive Confinement in Ireland ‘ deals with this pretty conclusively, mapping out the Irish states network of ‘secret’ prisons. Which is what they were, largely

16

pedant 02.13.13 at 4:16 pm

Syntactically speaking,
“enough women to work and marry”
is an unfortunate, even object-ionable zeugma,

given that “enough women to marry” makes “women” the direct object of the transitive verb “marry”, and by zeugma, it seems to make them the direct object of the transitive verb “work”.

Work those women!

17

Barry 02.13.13 at 6:45 pm

You know who else reached for his pistol when the grammar pendants came out? :)

18

Ralph H. 02.13.13 at 7:15 pm

Lurker is right; where would Holmes and Watson have been without Mrs. Hudson?
The Magdalene Laundries…. first heard of these through Sinead O’Connor’s song. A stain on the Irish soul that can’t be blamed on the British.

19

Salient 02.13.13 at 7:27 pm

This was quite a moving call to action.

One modern roughly-somewhat-parallel phenomenon (in the US) is the number of women getting incarcerated for drug use. For a long time I had naively assumed drug use incarcerations were predominantly male, because that’s what gets talked about. But certainly part of this post is inspecting ‘what gets talked about’ more closely, and in a broader sense than the Overton window of democratic party politics.

It does feel like little-discussed, subconsciously-ignored problems like this are most often brought up in bad faith by political opponents seeking to delegitimize some other activist movement (the ‘how can you complain when women in Africa have it so much worse’ intimidation tactic). I wonder if that intimidation tactic affects us in more ways than the obvious one. I am looking at it this way. The best means through which we might start to talk about unspoken-of groupthink-repressed issues, when we notice them, is by envisioning some kind of zone of proximal sentiment,^1^ segueing to the novel issue from known and discussed problems that already have a strong emotional resonance and are well within ‘what gets talked about’ at present. (That’s what this post does and encourages others to do.) The hope being, maybe we can transfer some emotional energy from a well-known resolved problem, or from a well-known but presently intractable problem, to a neglected problem that’s more tractable. It seems like the best means both because it’s transparent — the audience can clearly see what we’re doing — and because it’s effective — emotional opinions on new topics get formed by making concrete associations with topics and problems we feel the same way about, not so much by an abstract appeal to principle.

But it’s exactly that reasonable form of emotional segue that gets hijacked and subverted by political opponents, who only want to use other potentially emotionally-resonant issues solely to make you feel guilty for trying to address a problem that is productively getting talked about.

So I wonder if some contribution to the groupthought-silence is a desire to defend ourselves and our initiatives from those who would bring up alternative, less salient instances of injustice for the sole purpose of repressing our current efforts, confident that it won’t backfire because those instances don’t get talked about and won’t get talked about. We’re worried bringing something else up will unproductively expend our limited credibility,^2^ and open us to attacks like “how can that be your primary concern, when you could be addressing [issue that is talked about]? Isn’t that more important and more worthy of your time?” (This is basically engaging the zone of proximal sentiment in reverse. I guess that’s all I meant.)

^1^the difference between what a person can sympathize with immediately/independently/intuitively, and what they can sympathize with with the assistance of someone who establishes a sentimental connection with them, meets them where they are, and shows them how the new issue belongs within their nexus of sentimental attachments. (I tried to draw a rough analogy to ZPD but it’s probably overstrained)

^2^Credibility is a lot more limited, flexible, and subtle than it gets credit for; the more problems a person presents without carefully illustrating the emotional resonance between them, the less likely an audience is to connect with the speaker sympathetically and take them seriously. (A person who talks about what you should care about, without demonstrating their understanding of what you do care about, isn’t gonna get very far…)

20

Maria 02.13.13 at 7:53 pm

Pedant, yes, yes yes. You’ve no idea how long I stared at that phrase, trying to fix it…

Emma in Sydney, thanks a million for that link. An old and dear friend, Hofstra University’s Maureen Murphy has been working for many years on a book about Irish servant girls in America. Some amazing stories and unexpected findings which I hope one day to reference about here. In the meantime, a taster: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/30057698?uid=3738032&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21101805330877

21

Lurker 02.13.13 at 8:26 pm

I’d also like to note that the Victorian society was patriachal mostly for upper and middle classes. The working class could not afford it. Consequently, a young woman working as a maid was, despite her poverty and vulnerability to sexual assault by the employer, freer than the daughters of her employer.

To retain social standing, a middle class young lady had very few options, and her choice of husband was limited to the eligible bachelors in her social circle. She could not choose any other outside employment than school teacher and nurse, both of which essentially required celibacy.

On the other hand, in a fast-growing economy (as Australia of the 19th century), a maid had some possibility to choose her employer, and she was quite unconstrained in her choice of husband.

22

jennifer 02.13.13 at 9:11 pm

Thank you for a wonderful post………fascinating and awful to hear how the Magdalene laundries, the residential schools etc were not the only place this kind of crap was going on

23

jennifer 02.13.13 at 9:13 pm

Thank you for a wonderful post………fascinating and awful to hear how the Magdalene laundries, the residential schools etc were not the only place this kind of crap was going on, is going on today……….

24

pedant 02.13.13 at 11:08 pm

oh, well–there are also sorts of re-writes and work-arounds available, each with its own underlying metaphysics:

women as marketable commodity:
“…enough women to meet the demands of the labor markets and marriage markets.”

women as objects of desire:
“enough women for the employers and prospective husbands who wanted them.”

even, who knows, women as subjects:
“…enough women to do the jobs and marry the men.”

though I agree it’s not how many would have viewed them at the time.

25

pedant 02.13.13 at 11:08 pm

sorry–“all sorts”

26

Chingona 02.14.13 at 1:38 am

We must remember that despite patriarchal structures, marriage was also a must for most men. For anyone not in the upper or upper middle class, marriage was the only economically viable way of having a respectable lifestyle.

What do you mean “despite patriarchal structures”? Whom do you think marriage is for? Expecting a husband to use a wife as a servant and maid is part and parcel of patriarchy.

The man’s work would take too much time, so a lower or lower middle class man would be doomed to shabbiness and badly prepared food without a wife.

Working class married couples managed to keep house just fine. Of course, this meant all adult and teenaged women in the household worked two jobs (one outside and one inside) the home.

27

Helen 02.14.13 at 8:04 am

We must remember that despite patriarchal structures, marriage was also a must for most men. For anyone not in the upper or upper middle class, marriage was the only economically viable way of having a respectable lifestyle. If you could not afford to hire a maid-servant, you needed a wife simply for daily chores like laundry and cooking, which take incredible amount of time without home appliances. The man’s work would take too much time, so a lower or lower middle class man would be doomed to shabbiness and badly prepared food without a wife.

Yes; and?

I still don’t see why this made Australia a hugely better place for women in preindustrial society. “Not forced into marriage” doesn’t really rate as an index of nirvana if you’re expected to be the man’s domestic servant after your elective marriage.

28

Emma in Sydney 02.14.13 at 8:54 am

Maria, I hope you find something interesting there. It was my baby for 5 years.

What stood out during our work on the project was just how much social mobility there was for the Irish in nineteenth century Sydney, whether male or female, convict or free. This will be easier to find out about when the project is able to let users query the database and its web of connections. But an astonishing proportion of the first aldermen, mayors and later parliamentarians of the colony were the sons of Irish convicts, risen to the top of Sydney society within a generation through success in business, mostly. They had rights and political organisations they would not have had back in Ireland, or even England, and they used them. Here’s an example: http://dictionaryofsydney.org/person/flood_edward and here’s another — she wasn’t Irish, but her parents were both convicts and she married the son of Irish convicts who became Mayor of Sydney. There are so many more stories.

As for women’s place in society — there’s a great article in the Dictionary about women in business in mid-nineteenth century Sydney — http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/women_of_pitt_street_1858 which shows just how many options there were for women of enterprise, even under patriarchal conditions. Boom towns, frontiers, are often freer than the metropolis, or the old country.

29

Emma in Sydney 02.14.13 at 8:54 am

Sorry about the ugly links, but the proper version got eated, and I decided not to risk it on the second go.

30

Helen 02.14.13 at 9:08 am

Chingona already said it and said it better. That’ll teach me to read to the end of the comments before I comment!

31

Tim Worstall 02.14.13 at 9:54 am

“On the other hand, in a fast-growing economy (as Australia of the 19th century), a maid had some possibility to choose her employer, and she was quite unconstrained in her choice of husband.”

Indeed, so much so that g-g-grannie had several of them in series. Assisted passage (several unmarried daughters in English artisan’s family, thus paid for passage) in the late 1840s, early 1850s. Marriage, divorce, remarriage, widowed, at least two children out of wedlock and then marriage again and emigration to Peru where last hubby died building the railways and then back to England. One birth certificate reads “born 11 months after husband’s death”.

Not a life path that was likely in the England of the day (well, obviously, the emigration etc).

32

Sumana Harihareswara 02.14.13 at 12:28 pm

Maria, thank you for writing this.

33

cripes 02.14.13 at 8:46 pm

I suppose a takeaway could be hierarchical societies create elaborate rituals and conditions of forced labor and subjugation for outcome for social outcasts, even “creating” them by the simple expedient of sporting away the body into confinement. Frontier societies have a window of opportunity before the new institution have felled, in which individuals once consigned to be outcast may push through barriers to make new roles in the new society; even women or the sons of Irish convicts. Fair?
The hope, we hope, is that the new society will form itself into institutions a wee bit less oppressive.

34

cripes 02.14.13 at 8:49 pm

android Spellchecker has mangled my post. Hope the gist remains.

35

Chingona 02.15.13 at 2:35 am

Thanks, Helen. Some of these conversations, in the context of and beneath a post about social history, were so strange and so poorly reasoned, I wondered if I weren’t missing something.

The notion that men are or were incapable of feeding, cleaning, and dressing themselves (their work was too demanding, poor souls) without the help of a full-time wife, and the corollary assumption that this was a good thing, independent of patriarchy, is, yes, very odd. Lurker’s peculiar misconception that patriarchy was a luxury only the middling and upper classes could afford–working class women as culture-less?–belies all known reality.

Incidentally, my family in Australasia will be happy to know how woman-friendly and safe their culture is, because: White Woman Scarcity. Surely nothing ever very bad happened as a result of that. I was also surprised to find out, given that my field of study is the history of rural crime, that women “do less crime than men.” The things one learns on the interwebs!

36

ajay 02.16.13 at 11:48 pm

Salient: “One modern roughly-somewhat-parallel phenomenon (in the US) is the number of women getting incarcerated for drug use. For a long time I had naively assumed drug use incarcerations were predominantly male, because that’s what gets talked about. “

…they aren’t? I had assumed that too.
(Also, drug use isn’t a crime in the US. Do you mean possession; drug offences more generally; or just prisoners who use drugs? A quick google shows that female prisoners are more likely to be addicts than male prisoners, but that’s not quite the same…)

37

Flip Doubt 02.19.13 at 10:45 am

I admit to not reading the comments yet but my mother was given to the Good Shepard convent in Waterford Ireland after being born out of wedlock in the 1940’s.
I suppose during the 40’s everywhere had stigma associated with unmarried women having kids but in Ireland you could not have a child out of wedlock and expect anything but constant harassment.
My mother is the kindest human alive but she has horror stories.
She spent the first 19 years of her life there. It was a bad place owned and operated by the catholic church. At 19 she was picked out by an American family where the wife had polio and three young kids. She had to be drugged to get on an airplane because she had never seen or heard of such a thing. At best she received minimal schooling and could not read. In her forties she learned to read and she also found out who her mother was. Her mother was horrified and wanted nothing to do with her but she found out her parents had gone on to marry and that she was the oldest of six kids.
After her mothers death the siblings found the correspondence between their mother and my mom and she has met all of her younger siblings .
I am the result of my mother and her new employer who promptly got rid of her and told his family she ran off with someone.
Life is strange. My mother lucked out getting away from all that because the convents had 12-16 foot walls around them and the top of the walls had glass shards embedded into the cement. Even if they did not have the walls where could a runaway go. She was a slave and I bet there are similar places now. The Catholic church is huge and wealthy and has been around a long time and the church did this for ages. My mother is certain she would still be inside the walls working as a slave if she had not escaped.
Slaves have no rights and are treated horrible. One example is every christmas the nuns would put a box of donated used shoes on one side of the courtyard and when the nun blew the whistle it was a free for all and the shoes were all they got for the year and they had to fight for them and often they did not fit.
That is nothing but a mild example of the types of abuse. The laundry was run by the nuns who reported to the priest. Priests are all gross but the church is evil.
My mother is in her 60’s and I am going to call her tomorrow.
Ireland is a poor country with few resources and it is small and is so catholic condoms just became legal. Ireland also had England for a neighbor so it had plenty of stuff to figure out and deal with before it could be blamed for the churchs actions with these children. I have said more than I intended but I am glad that the light of day has begun to penetrate the dark places.
No wonder the church does not want birth control. What slave owner would allow the slaves to have birth control or the ability to read.
blah
I hope that all of those who read this take a second and realize the fight is not over for women. Think how many countries currently treat women as property.
Hopefully this will change.
I doubt that anywhere was a good place for women that had no protection.
The church stigmatized the children born out of wedlock and made sure there was a steady supply. People look to the church for direction and help with their lives.
My two cents is the church bears all the blame.

38

Niall McAuley 02.20.13 at 10:12 am

Full text of the Taoiseach’s apology in the Dáil to the Magdelen women on behalf of the State at this link. Money paragraph:

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 Magdalen Laundry.

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