Magdalene Laundries – By Joni Mitchell


Donnybrook washing May 2012

Photo: My (symbolic) sheet hanging on washing-line at Donnybrook, Dublin abode – by Marie-Thérèse O’Loughlin [May, 2012]. H/t: Lyrics (incorporated) – by Joni Mitchell

Magdalene asylums were institutions from the 18th to the late-20th centuries ostensibly for “fallen women”, a term used to imply sexual promiscuity. Asylums for these girls and women (and others believed to be of poor moral character, such as prostitutes) operated throughout Europe, Britain, Ireland, Canada and the United States for much of the 19th and well into the 20th century. The first asylum in Ireland opened on Leeson Street in Dublin in 1765, founded by the Protestant Lady Arabella Denny.

I was reading a very heartrending Magdalen laundry article on Magdalen laundries at  @thejournal_ie: an Irish online newspaper. I pasted a comment I made responding to just one sentence Deborah Henry made. Read the rest of the very powerful article here.
“A life unlived: 35 years of slavery in a Magdalene Laundry” –

My name is Deborah Henry and I am Irish American. Have not had a mother abused nor been abused but you do not have to have been born into this holocaust to feel outrage from this mistreatment by church and state. You just have to be human. For eight years I researched, read, interviewed, wrote and rewrote a novel called The Whipping Club because I believe there should be more literature on this subject. My thoughts and prayers are with those who were abused in Mother and Baby Homes, Magdalene Laundries, Industrial Schools and Orphanages among other institutions throughout the world


  • And with the 2,300 children taken into care in Ireland this year. Also with all children who currently have their blood stored on a central data base for research purposes. We need to learn from the past and use that knowledge to ensure fewer children are taken into care. Respect for children would dictate that their blood was not retained on a central data base until they had reached the age of consent

  • @Deborah Henry. “My thoughts and prayers are with those who were abused in Mother and Baby Homes, Magdalene Laundries, Industrial Schools and Orphanages among other institutions throughout the world”.

    One can’t talk about Magdalen Laundries, without also thinking about the industrial *schools* and mother and baby homes. They’re part ands parcel of each other.

    Derek Lenster – who was in Protestant-run Bethany House, Rathgar, and myself, who was in the Regina Ceoli mother and baby unit, North Brunswick St. Dublin, have been fighting tooth and nail for years to be acknowledged by the government. The fighting sadly is still ongoing.

    The story of Margaret Bullen is absolutely heartrending. I hope the government pays heed to survivors of Magdalen Laundries. I must say that it was such a relief to read in the article here that the offspring of Margaret went to a good home. That is such a crucial thing for their adult emotional / mental / psychological psyches. They should hopefully have enough love to give to Margaret, who appears to have been utterly deprived.

    I know some children from Goldenbridge industrial *school* who were allegedly repeatedly raped for years as children by those who had adopted them. Charming isn’t it indeed! To add salt to the wounds, they were told by the religious when they reported the abuse that they were telling lies. The audacity! They were unfortunately sent back to the same family. It beggars belief.

    The voices of innocent children meant nothing to Irish society in the past. Especially not those who were used as fodder by the religious for generations in industrial schools and Magdalen laundries (when they got older).

    Nobody cared about the likes of Margaret Bullen and her institutional ilk. The children were classed as products of fallen women and therefore must be punished on behalf of the erring, shameless parents, and trained up so that they would not go in the same “slutty” way as their mothers.

    It was not uncommon either for Goldenbridge children – who went out with host families to come up against sexual abuse. There was no name for it then. Well… there was really, but… don’t you know, nobody then wanted to speak about the unspeakable. They came from the era of the ‘valley of the squinting windows’.

    I went to Sean McDermot St. as a teenager to visit a person from Goldenbridge who had been sent there by the religious.

    The person – who spent her whole Goldenbridge childhood making rosary-beads – and who is now deceased never came to terms with the life she had, from birth, in the Regina Ceoli hostel – mother and baby unit, then as a wee tot was incarcerated by the judiciary into Goldenbridge industrial *school*, and then sent to Sean McDermott St. when her child prison sentence was up.

    When she left Sean McDermot St. she became homeless. So as an adult person she returned to the Regina Ceoli hostel from whence her life began. She was finally housed in the last few years of her life. It was albeit too late, the damage was done.

    I’m glad that she lived though, to tell her story to the commission to inquire into institutional child abuse. I was proud to help with her statement. Because she was in a Magdalen laundry before the age of eighteen, it was subsequently taken into consideration by the Residential Institutions Board [RIRB].

    I wish all survivors of Magdalen Laundries every success in their endeavours to fight the government. They, like survivors of industrial *schools* have fought long and hard for justice.

    *school* = was a euphemism used by the government. The proper term = child labour camp.

    I just heard through the grapevine that Australian government officials came over to Ireland to learn from us about the RIRB. They’ve accepted responsibility for the wrongdoing to children in the past. The Northern Irish government is also slowly making inroads. So… c’mon Irish politicians and get your little fingers out and sort out Mary Bullen and all survivors of Magdalen laundries.


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