Magdalen laundries

The following information was sourced via on 2nd Nov. Due to its important relevancy pertaining to a subject matter that I’ve an interest in, I decided to place it here, with all credit due to aforementioned newspaper.

“Newspaper ad from 1838 lays bare how society viewed those in Magdalene Laundries. In announcing a “charity sermon,” it speaks of “numberless unhappy females whom it has reclaimed from vice by religious and moral instructions”.

In four paragraphs and a couple of hundred words, the way in which those who found themselves within the Magdalene Laundries (Asylums) were viewed by the outside world has been revealed.”

For readers who will find it hard to read the newspaper clipping I’ve transcribed it below.

Magdalen Asylum. Jan 13.

The annual CHARITY SERMON in aid of the MAGDALEN ASYLUM, Clare Street, will be preached on Sunday next, the 14th Instant. in St. MICHAEL’S CHAPEL, at Half-past Two o Clock by the Rev. Murrane, V.P.  St. Patrick’s.

The Ladies of the Committee feel that in putting forth the claims of this Institution to the support of the publick, [sic] they can appeal with confidence to its long established and well recognised utility. It has during a series of years been a home to numberless un-happy females who it was reclaimed from vice by religious and moral instruction, provided with food and clothing during the term of their  probation, and sent back after its expiration to society, formed to habits of virtue and industry. The committee deem it their duty to state, that its funds being now exhausted, it rests to the public to prolong its blessings to the community.

Did they deem it necessary to add more, it would be the painful fact, that several females of an age so tender, that the bare mention of it would shock the ordinary feelings of humanity, have sought, and for the want of funds, were denied its shelter, and were thus thrown back upon the world, to experience its worst and bitter evils.
Donations from such as cannot attend will be thankfully received, and acknowledged by the Right Rev. Dr. Ryan, and the Clergymen of the different chapels in the city.

“The Limerick1912 Twitter account, which describes itself as “a local history project tracking what life was like in Limerick 100 years ago”, today published an image of the excerpt (see below). In the newspaper ad which promotes an upcoming “charity sermon,” parishioners are urged to give what they can. The reason? To further enable the “Ladies of the Committee” to help “numberless unhappy females whom it has reclaimed from vice by religious and moral instructions,” who, having been given “food and clothing during the term of their probation,” would be sent back out into the world, “formed to habits of virtue and industry”. In describing the further treatment of the women as being “blessings to the community,” a failure to provide the necessary funds would leave them “thrown back upon the world, to experience its worst and bitterest evils!”.

Read more here regarding the Magdalen laundries.

I think the ‘e’ in Magdalen[e] must have come into being because of The Magdalen[e] Sisters’ film – by Peter Mullan. As one can see in the clippings, there is no [e] in Magdalen. I never knew it by the first spelling either. Perhaps the director was covering himself by adding an ‘e’, or perhaps he wanted to bring across the biblical Mary Magdalene to appeal to the world. Also, the term sisters’ would have been sort of incorrect, as they were in fact, nuns, the term, sisters’ is mostly associated with those who renew their vows periodically rather than those who take vows for life. The nuns who ran Magdalen laundries per se, would have come from the subset who took vows for life. Just some observations. I remember discussing this very topic at where I frequented for over six years. I know that they’re all called sisters’ or mother by name. So I don’t mean it in the everyday sense.


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