Saturday, August 3, 2013

20th century slavery. I AM SO ANGRY

What do you call someone who works for no wages, is held behind locked doors, moved to different places, forced to change their name and can not leave or contact anyone. In fact if they do get out the police returned them to the institution. They had broken no law in many cases, and if they had their sentence was indeterminate. Well it sure sounds like slavery to me. In addition they were often starved and physically and mentally ill treated.

Who were the slavers, the Catholic church.

Who were the slave overseers, nuns.

Who profited from the slaves work, well the church did for sure and I guess anybody who had their wash done on the cheap.

One in ten died while they were slaves and were buried without ceremony in unmarked graves. The nuns did keep good records though although that does not seem to have included contacting the relatives.

Joni Mitchell wrote a song with the line “Who you gonna get to do the dirty work when all the slaves are free.” at first I thought it was connected to the Magdalene Laundries but I am not sure now but the song also includes this “Magdalene is trembling Like a washing on a line”.

Anyway I just found this CD of Joni Mitchell's misses and the those lines have been running through my head. I had vague memories of reading something about the nuns running laundries as part of the rehabilitation process for 'fallen' women and had associated it with the 1800s and was totally horrified to find that the last of the Magdalene Laundries closed in 1996 when I looked it up on the net.


Well I could not believe it. Slavery in the 20th century not just in Catholic southern Ireland but in England and the USA.
In Ireland a quarter of the women who passed through the institutions were sent by the state. The laundries operated as a parallel prison system to which the Irish courts routinely sent women who were handed down suspended sentences for petty crimes. Women were referred from government-run mother and baby homes, and girls from industrial schools were sometimes transferred to Magdalene Laundries when they reached puberty.
They also operated as homes for unmarried mothers and other vulnerable women who in found they could not get out. The Good Shepherd Convent, Magdalen Asylum first opened on the 29th July 1872 and operated as an orphanage and a Magdalen laundry until the late 1970s.
It has been estimated that around 30,000 women were admitted during the 150-year history of the Magdalen institutions. Most were incarcerated against their will at the request of family members or priests for reasons such as prostitution, being an unmarried mother, being developmentally challenged or abused. Even young girls who were considered too promiscuous and flirtatious were sometimes sent to the Magdalen Asylum.
State employees, like the police, regularly returned those who escaped. Several government departments, and even the official home of the Irish president, showed up in the laundries’ meticulously kept ledgers as customers who sent linen to be cleaned.

I just read the above again and I AM SO ANGRY that I want to hurt someone.

I have walked the streets of Dublin and Cork in the 60s and 70s never thinking that there could be slaves behind some of the walls.

I suppose that for some these places would have been welcome safe haven and that most of the nuns would have been caring but it is clear that there was a pattern of holding these women against their will and breaking down their sense of self worth.

Survivors own stories
My name is Josephine Meade i was in several different Magdalene laundries in Cork, Galway and Dublin. The worst was The Mercy Convent in Galways. The nuns in there were lethal. They beat, punched and tortud me in such a way that i have never been able to recover fully since. My time in the Laundry was spent doing laundry. I got no education, at all in there. I tried to escape once i was brought back by the Gaurds. There is no other words to describe thise places other than sheer hell holes. It was worst then prison.

My name is Maureen Sullivan and I’m a survivor from the Good Shepherd Magdalene Laundry in New Ross, Co. Wexford. At the age of 12 I was taken from my school in Co. Carlow and placed in the Magdalene Laundry at News Ross against my will. I was told that this place was going to further my education but that never happened. By day I would work in this laundry but by night I would sleep in St Aidan’s Industrial School. It was long, hard tedious work and because I was small they made a timber box so I could feed the sheets into the caldron. I remember being hidden in a tunnel when the school inspectors came. I can only assume that this was due to the fact that I should not have been working in the laundry. The nuns have destroyed my life and they never allowed me to develop as a young girl. I was only a young girl of 12 years of age. All I want is Justice.

I am in Grenada in the West Indies just now. Slavery here was abolished by 1840. Why was there slavery in Britain Ireland Australia and the USA a hundred years later and run by the church of all organizations with nuns as the slave drivers.

The Irish government has agreed to pay up 58 million euros ($75 million) to hundreds of women forced to work at the Catholic Church's notorious Magdalene Laundries after a report found that a quarter of them were sent there by the Irish state. The Catholic Church was expected to contribute but surprise surprise there are no funds ' available '.
Bank accounts have suddenly been moved or ringfenced.

Most of the Magdelenes are older now and the cynical say that both church and state are taking the ' long view '.

As of the 7th March 2013 no reparations have been paid. See CLICKY for details.


  1. There was an interesting program on this story here. It makes me very angry as well
    Personally I believe the higher ups in the church, government,etc who covered up what was going on should be charged. That includes all the way up to the Vatican.

  2. It was hard to believe that there was such a thing going on under our noses in the 20th century.

    Now they are dragging their feet about reparations and the church is running around hiding assets.