Magdalen(e) Laundries by Joni Mitchell.

I was an unmarried girl
I’d just turned twenty-seven
When they sent me to the sisters
For the way men looked at me
Branded as a jezebel
I knew I was not bound for Heaven
I’d be cast in shame
Into the Magdalene laundries

Most girls come here pregnant
Some by their own fathers
Bridget got that belly
By her parish priest
We’re trying to get things white as snow
All of us woe-begotten-daughters
In the steaming stains
Of the Magdalene laundries

Prostitutes and destitutes
And temptresses like me–
Fallen women–
Sentenced into dreamless drudgery …
Why do they call this heartless place
Our Lady of Charity?
Oh charity!

These bloodless brides of Jesus
If they had just once glimpsed their groom
Then they’d know, and they’d drop those stones
Concealed behind their rosaries
They wilt the grass they walk upon
They leech the light out of a room
They’d like to drive us down the drain
At the Magdalene laundries

Peg O’Connell died today
She was a cheeky girl
A flirt
They just stuffed her in a hole!
Surely to God you’d think at least some bells should ring!
One day I’m going to die here too
And they’ll plant me in the dirt
Like some lame bulb
That never blooms come any spring
Not any spring
No, not any spring
Not any spring

This is such a haunting song. It just makes me cry every time I listen to it. Thank you, Joni Mitchell, for this powerful rendition of your own song. The musical arrangement is excellent. I would like to dedicate this song to all survivors of Magdalen laundries. So many of my Goldenbridge industrial *school* counterparts had the misfortune of going into these despicable slave-labour places when their detention periods were up. So they had a double whammy of institutionalised life and all the crap that ensued from same. Some even never saw the outside world and died in their respective laundries.

People sometimes accuse those of us who were in industrial schools/Magdalen laundries of being very self-absorbed in our pain and they flee from us because of what we spout out, as it becomes like a broken record. I know that it can’t be helped on their part that they think that way, as they are seeing up-front the damage that it has caused to us and they don’t know how to handle it. The pain is indescribable; one cannot express coherently the untold damage that these institutions have done to innocent women.

The reunion, from both sides now
Life hasn’t been easy since Joni Mitchell found the daughter she gave up 32 years ago. Those who have gone through similar experiences can well understand from whence she derives.

 Sonya Kitchell with Joni standing in front of her painting of Coco. According to Sonya: The photos with Joni Mitchell were taken at a live taping for Yahoo Music with Herbie Hancock. The painting behind us, of her dog Coco, was done there. Each artist who’s performed on the series is given a tablet to sign or make art upon, and this is what Joni did. Many thanks to Sonya Kitchell for permission to display her photo. H/t Joni Mitchell.

H/t Joni Mitchell. “I have always thought of myself as a painter derailed by circumstance.”

Painting used by the Music for Youth Foundation for their Tribute to Joni Mitchell event at Carnegie Hall on February 1, 2006. Most likely painted by Joni from a Henry Diltz photograph

Many survivors of industrial *schools* found siblings that were adopted. As well as having to deal with the reality of having siblings. They also had to contend with huge difficulties in trying to figure out why their newly discovered siblings were adopted and not them. The ones who were adopted, from my standpoint, seemed to have fared much better in life as they themselves invariably went on to become loving parents. Whereas the ones who were incarcerated, suffered hugely with identity problems and did not know how to develop normal lives after leaving the industrial *schools*. I guess that’s a given, since not having the guidance of proper caregivers in their young lives, it is naturally going to have repercussions on the status of their adulthood and decisions in life.

I guess Joni Mitchell must have thought about what might have happened to her offspring had she been placed in an industrial school or a Magdalen Laundry.

There were Goldenbridge counterparts who were adopted by supposedly very ‘respectable’ educated people and one of them was allegedly repeatedly raped for years by the male member of the family. He was a so-called pillar of society? The two children arrived back in Goldenbridge because of the rape allegations and were sent back again shortly afterwards to the same family by the religious. It beggars belief.

Joni Mitchell sings Magdalen(e) Laundries from her gut. Music is utterly therapeutic for those who have suffered tremendously in their lives. It brings out the pus that festers and relieves and soothes one of the anguish and grief that builds up inside.


I received a comment which pointed out the above video of Joni Mitchell.  I shall definitely watch out for it in the shops. It looks really interesting. She is so talented. Cheers to whomever? for alerting me to same. Submitted on 2012/03/17 at 9:20 pm […] […]


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