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Laundries survivor: We were slaves


Laundries survivor: We were slaves

From the link: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-21334882

A report published today is expected to detail Irish government knowledge of what went on in Magdalene Laundries.

The laundries were Catholic-run workhouses that operated in Ireland from the 1920s to the mid-1990s.

Girls considered “troubled” or what were then called “fallen women” were sent there by families or the courts.

Ellen Murphy, a survivor of the Magdalene Laundries, told the Today programme’s John Humphrys that she was put to work using large washing machines.

“You had to do that or die with starvation,” she explained.

Speaking of her restrictive ordeal at the Laundries, Ms Murphy said: “You never went out, you were locked in all the time… you never saw the world.”

“We were slaves from one end of the day to the other,” she added.

Roman Catholic Horrors: Magdalene Launderies and Asylums


Roman Catholic Horrors: Magdalene Launderies and Asylums

• Originally termed Magdalene Asylums the first in Ireland was opened in Dublin in 1765, for Protestant girls • First Catholic home was founded in Cork in 1809 • Envisaged as short-term refuges for 'fallen women' they became long-term institutions and penitents were required to work, mostly in laundries on the premises • They extended to take in unmarried mothers, women with learning difficulties and girls who had been abused • The facilities were self-supporting and the money generated by the laundries paid for them • Between 1922 and 1996 there were 10 such laundries in the Republic of Ireland • Many Irish institutions, such as the army, government departments, hotels and even Guinness had contracts with Magdalene laundries • The women toiled behind locked doors unable to leave after being admitted and while the laundries were paid, they received no wages • The last Magdalene asylum in Ireland, in Waterford, closed in 1996 • The congregations which ran them were the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, the Religious Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

• Originally termed Magdalene Asylums the first in Ireland was opened in Dublin in 1765, for Protestant girls
• First Catholic home was founded in Cork in 1809
• Envisaged as short-term refuges for ‘fallen women’ they became long-term institutions and penitents were required to work, mostly in laundries on the premises
• They extended to take in unmarried mothers, women with learning difficulties and girls who had been abused
• The facilities were self-supporting and the money generated by the laundries paid for them
• Between 1922 and 1996 there were 10 such laundries in the Republic of Ireland
• Many Irish institutions, such as the army, government departments, hotels and even Guinness had contracts with Magdalene laundries
• The women toiled behind locked doors unable to leave after being admitted and while the laundries were paid, they received no wages
• The last Magdalene asylum in Ireland, in Waterford, closed in 1996
• The congregations which ran them were the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, the Religious Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

 

A life unlived: 35 years of slavery in a Magdalene Laundry


A life unlived: 35 years of slavery in a Magdalene Laundry

One woman tells the story of her mother who was sent to a Laundry in Dublin at the age of 16 – and died there at the age of 51.

Sep 30 1:00 PM

From the Link: http://www.thejournal.ie/magdalene-laundry-true-story-margaret-bullen-samantha-long-614350-Sep2012/

THE TREATMENT OF women incarcerated in Magdalene Laundries – and the level of State involvement in these Church-run institutions – has been highlighted yet again this month. There was disappointment among survivors and relatives of those kept in the Laundries when it was announced that a State committee’s final report into the matter would be delayed until the end of the year.

To reiterate the urgency of revealing the inter-departmental findings, the Justice for Magdalene advocacy group last week distributed some redacted statements of women detailing their lives in such institutions. (The group claims that there was State involvement in the operation of the Laundries as places to send women considered to be “problem girls”, due to poverty or pregnancy outside marriage for example.)

Samantha Long’s mother Margaret Bullen was placed in Gloucester Street (now Sean McDermott Street) Laundry c.1967 and died 35 years later, never having been released into society and her own home. Margaret died of an illness known as Goodpasture Syndrome, a disease of the kidneys and liver – one of the causes is exposure to industrial-strength chemicals such as those used in the Laundries.

Samantha made a lengthy statement to the interdepartmental committee, led by Senator Martin McAleese, about her mother’s life. Margaret Bullen had a tragic start in life: she was born in a mental institution in Grangegorman, Dublin to a mother who already had six children, Margaret being the youngest. Margaret was sent home to Kimmage to live with her siblings and father, where she remained until she was three years old. At that point, Margaret’s brother was sent to Artane industrial school and Margaret and her sister closest to her in age sent to the notorious High Park industrial school and Laundry in Drumcondra. That, as Samantha says of her mother, “was the end of her and the outside world”.

A second statement sent to Senator McAleese’s committee from a former Laundry inmate who remembers Margaret and her sister recounts how Margaret suffered fits as a young child but that they were ignored by the nuns there (then known as the Sisters of Charity of Refuge, now the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity).

Margaret appears to have been moved in her early teens to a special school called St Teresa’s in Blackrock, after she was certified mentally unfit for education, but fit for work. Her daughter Samantha says in her own statement:

She was assessed at age thirteen as being mentally challenged because on the day that they measured her, they said that she had an IQ of fifty, which I dispute after meeting her, even after all those years of institutionalisation.. And I think that if you’re hungry and tired from your slavery, your IQ wouldn’t be very sharp, or your skills on any given moment mightn’t be sharp. You would be probably just pulled into this room – “now we’re going to measure your IQ” – so even the shock of that wouldn’t, you know, you could shut down.

At roughly the age of 16, Margaret was sent to the Magdalene Laundry at Gloucester Street. The exact time and circumstances of her move there are not clear because Samantha and her sister are still waiting on full records to be supplied to them on their mother’s past.

She became pregnant – twice – with Samantha and her twin sister Etta, and later with another daughter, while officially under the care of the Gloucester Street nuns. The circumstances of these conceptions are again shrouded in mystery but Samantha says her conversations in later life with her mother when they were reunited led her to believe that Margaret had been the victim of sexual abuse and predators several times.

There was no education, no education and I, you know, I honestly believe for a long time she didn’t know how she got pregnant, she just knew that somebody hurt her once and then she had babies. I really believe that. She didn’t make that connection, I know that for sure. She was no, she didn’t have a boyfriend, let’s put it that way. And that’s the politest way that I can say that.

Some of the more harrowing details of Samantha’s testimony recount how her mother was denied society, education, wages and other basic rights for most of her life. This extract recalls Samantha and Etta’s first meeting with Margaret in the Gresham Hotel when they were 23 and had traced her as their biological mother. (Samantha and Etta were adopted by a loving couple in Dublin and later moved to Sligo in childhood.)

Margaret was only 42 at the time but looked much older. She was carrying a handbag but it was completely empty, because she didn’t own anything nor did she have any money. Samantha recalls:

And, she was just lovely, and she was asking extremely innocent questions like, she, it was the first time she ever had coffee and it was very exciting for her to have coffee and she hadn’t seen brown sugar before either and obviously in the Gresham there was brown and white sugar cubes on the table and it was all very fancy to her. And she was just overjoyed to be there and absolutely wowed by everything.

She looked, she looked like a pensioner. I couldn’t believe she was forty-two, I kept looking, I kept looking into her face to find a forty-two year old and I couldn’t, because she had the face of hard work, that face that you see in so many women that have just had to work too hard and have never had a rest and have never had anyone to take care of them or tell them to put their feet up, and who have just, just worked too hard. Because, as I said on the radio a few years ago, this was slavery and I don’t use that term lightly and I’m not an emotive person but slavery is a form of work for which you get no pay and you can’t leave and these were the white slaves of Ireland and they were never emancipated. And nobody stood up for them until now, until you guys (Justice for Magdalenes) did.

Samantha Long was asked by Senator McAleese’s commission what she would like the State to do to redress any wrongs committed against the women in Magdalene Laundries. She answered:

I would like the state to apologise for keeping those young girls behind bars, literally and figuratively. I would like the church and state to apologise for forcing them to do slave labour.I would like the church, the state and society to redress their reputations and apologise for keeping them down, for denying them education, freedom, money, their babies and their lives, all of those things.

And I would like that the circumstances that they find themselves in, through the missing pieces that the rest of us get in life, because they had no education, so how could they make it?

They were sitting ducks, keep them down, keep them unaware of their rights, keep them without money, keep the roof over their head, feed them a little bit, keep them alive, just enough for work. Give them their wages now, give them their wages.

A life unlived: 35 years of slavery in a Magdalene Laundry


A life unlived: 35 years of slavery in a Magdalene Laundry

One woman tells the story of her mother who was sent to a Laundry in Dublin at the age of 16 – and died there at the age of 51.

From the link: http://www.thejournal.ie/magdalene-laundry-true-story-margaret-bullen-samantha-long-614350-Sep2012/

THE TREATMENT OF women incarcerated in Magdalene Laundries – and the level of State involvement in these Church-run institutions – has been highlighted yet again this month. There was disappointment among survivors and relatives of those kept in the Laundries when it was announced that a State committee’s final report into the matter would be delayed until the end of the year.

To reiterate the urgency of revealing the inter-departmental findings, the Justice for Magdalene advocacy group last week distributed some redacted statements of women detailing their lives in such institutions. (The group claims that there was State involvement in the operation of the Laundries as places to send women considered to be “problem girls”, due to poverty or pregnancy outside marriage for example.)

Samantha Long’s mother Margaret Bullen was placed in Gloucester Street (now Sean McDermott Street) Laundry c.1967 and died 35 years later, never having been released into society and her own home. Margaret died of an illness known as Goodpasture Syndrome, a disease of the kidneys and liver – one of the causes is exposure to industrial-strength chemicals such as those used in the Laundries.

Samantha made a lengthy statement to the interdepartmental committee, led by Senator Martin McAleese, about her mother’s life. Margaret Bullen had a tragic start in life: she was born in a mental institution in Grangegorman, Dublin to a mother who already had six children, Margaret being the youngest. Margaret was sent home to Kimmage to live with her siblings and father, where she remained until she was three years old. At that point, Margaret’s brother was sent to Artane industrial school and Margaret and her sister closest to her in age sent to the notorious High Park industrial school and Laundry in Drumcondra. That, as Samantha says of her mother, “was the end of her and the outside world”.

A second statement sent to Senator McAleese’s committee from a former Laundry inmate who remembers Margaret and her sister recounts how Margaret suffered fits as a young child but that they were ignored by the nuns there (then known as the Sisters of Charity of Refuge, now the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity).

Margaret appears to have been moved in her early teens to a special school called St Teresa’s in Blackrock, after she was certified mentally unfit for education, but fit for work. Her daughter Samantha says in her own statement:

She was assessed at age thirteen as being mentally challenged because on the day that they measured her, they said that she had an IQ of fifty, which I dispute after meeting her, even after all those years of institutionalisation.. And I think that if you’re hungry and tired from your slavery, your IQ wouldn’t be very sharp, or your skills on any given moment mightn’t be sharp. You would be probably just pulled into this room – “now we’re going to measure your IQ” – so even the shock of that wouldn’t, you know, you could shut down.

At roughly the age of 16, Margaret was sent to the Magdalene Laundry at Gloucester Street. The exact time and circumstances of her move there are not clear because Samantha and her sister are still waiting on full records to be supplied to them on their mother’s past.

She became pregnant – twice – with Samantha and her twin sister Etta, and later with another daughter, while officially under the care of the Gloucester Street nuns. The circumstances of these conceptions are again shrouded in mystery but Samantha says her conversations in later life with her mother when they were reunited led her to believe that Margaret had been the victim of sexual abuse and predators several times.

There was no education, no education and I, you know, I honestly believe for a long time she didn’t know how she got pregnant, she just knew that somebody hurt her once and then she had babies. I really believe that. She didn’t make that connection, I know that for sure. She was no, she didn’t have a boyfriend, let’s put it that way. And that’s the politest way that I can say that.

Some of the more harrowing details of Samantha’s testimony recount how her mother was denied society, education, wages and other basic rights for most of her life. This extract recalls Samantha and Etta’s first meeting with Margaret in the Gresham Hotel when they were 23 and had traced her as their biological mother. (Samantha and Etta were adopted by a loving couple in Dublin and later moved to Sligo in childhood.)

Margaret was only 42 at the time but looked much older. She was carrying a handbag but it was completely empty, because she didn’t own anything nor did she have any money. Samantha recalls:

And, she was just lovely, and she was asking extremely innocent questions like, she, it was the first time she ever had coffee and it was very exciting for her to have coffee and she hadn’t seen brown sugar before either and obviously in the Gresham there was brown and white sugar cubes on the table and it was all very fancy to her. And she was just overjoyed to be there and absolutely wowed by everything.

She looked, she looked like a pensioner. I couldn’t believe she was forty-two, I kept looking, I kept looking into her face to find a forty-two year old and I couldn’t, because she had the face of hard work, that face that you see in so many women that have just had to work too hard and have never had a rest and have never had anyone to take care of them or tell them to put their feet up, and who have just, just worked too hard. Because, as I said on the radio a few years ago, this was slavery and I don’t use that term lightly and I’m not an emotive person but slavery is a form of work for which you get no pay and you can’t leave and these were the white slaves of Ireland and they were never emancipated. And nobody stood up for them until now, until you guys (Justice for Magdalenes) did.

Samantha Long was asked by Senator McAleese’s commission what she would like the State to do to redress any wrongs committed against the women in Magdalene Laundries. She answered:

I would like the state to apologise for keeping those young girls behind bars, literally and figuratively. I would like the church and state to apologise for forcing them to do slave labour. 

I would like the church, the state and society to redress their reputations and apologise for keeping them down, for denying them education, freedom, money, their babies and their lives, all of those things.

And I would like that the circumstances that they find themselves in, through the missing pieces that the rest of us get in life, because they had no education, so how could they make it?

They were sitting ducks, keep them down, keep them unaware of their rights, keep them without money, keep the roof over their head, feed them a little bit, keep them alive, just enough for work. Give them their wages now, give them their wages.

Depressing but not surprising: how the Magdalene Laundries got away with it


Depressing but not surprising: how the Magdalene Laundries got away with it

From the link: http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/07/depressing-not-surprising-how-magdalene-laundries-got-away-it

Inside a Magdalene Laundry. Photograph: Wikimedia/Magnus Manske

Inside a Magdalene Laundry. Photograph: Wikimedia/Magnus Manske

 

As a child, Anna Carey saw the dead-eyed women who had been forced to work for free in the laundries sit among the congregation at Mass, seen and yet ignored. Now, as the religious orders responsible refuse to contribute towards financial compensation, it’s not difficult to see how Irish society allowed these abuses to go on for so long.

I loved High Park when I was a kid. The rambling grounds of the convent were just across the road from the quiet Dublin housing estate where I grew up in the 1980s, and every Sunday my family went to Mass in the convent chapel. The chapel was a pretty little Victorian building; when I was very small, I used to jump slowly down the wooden steps of the choir stalls and pretend to be Professor Yaffle from Bagpuss.

Away from the cluster of convent buildings, the grounds were beautiful, with meadows full of wild flowers and a small herd of cows. We would go on nature walks, looking out for squirrels and gathering leaves and flowers. It was all rather idyllic, apart from the fact that we were playing in what had, for decades, essentially been a forced labour camp.

Run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, High Park Convent was the site of Ireland’s largest Magdalene Laundry. Until well into the twentieth century, girls deemed to be “difficult”  – because they were sexually active, or sexually abused, or simply poor – were sent to laundries by their families or the state. Despite having committed no crime, they were not allowed to leave the institutions and were forced to work for no pay, making them literally slaves. Many women spent their entire lives there, remaining long after the actual laundries closed down. They had nowhere else to go.

I used to see some of those women at Mass, the ones left behind, although I was almost grown up before I realised who they were. They’d shuffle in behind the nuns and sit quietly at the back. Their eyes were vacant, and they seemed completely institutionalised.  I’m sure they weren’t as old as they looked. There was a large, empty building near the chapel which was still referred to as “the laundry”; it wasn’t until my late teens that I realised it was where those dead-eyed women had been forced to slave. The adults around me must have known, but nobody ever talked about it.

Then, in 1993, High Park hit the news. The nuns sold some of the grounds to a property developer for IR£1.5m, but the sold land included a mass grave containing the remains of 155 women, many of whom were unnamed. The scandal forced Ireland to confront just what had happened in those laundries, and ask why we’d tolerated them for so long. It didn’t stop shameless religious orders continuing to sell land for vast amounts of money – thanks to further land sales, High Park made €61.7m between 1999 and 2009, and today the former grounds are covered in houses and apartments. But while nuns made millions, former Magdalenes began a long campaign for justice.

This year, they finally got results. Following a demand from the UN Committee against Torture (UNCAT) in 2011, a government enquiry into the laundries was established. Released in February this year, the enquiry’s report has been widely criticised by UNCAT among others for being neither independent nor thorough enough. It did, however, officially confirm that not only did the state commit at least 2500 young women to the convents’ “care”, it took advantage of the slave labour, giving the laundries government contracts despite being aware that the institutions were breaking the state’s own labour laws. Taoiseach Enda Kenny offered Magdalene survivors an official state apology, and last month details were announced of a financial compensation scheme.

The scheme, which has also been criticised, will cost the state about €58m. You might think, what with the millions they earned from selling land, that the various religious orders would be paying for some of this. But yesterday it was announced that they are refusing to contribute. This is depressing but not surprising, as they’ve repeatedly failed to apologise for running their lucrative labour camps.

But that’s the thing about the Irish Catholic church – it never thinks it’s done anything wrong. Its officials always claim mitigating circumstances – things were different in the twentieth century! Nobody thought there was anything wrong with slavery, or raping children! This is nonsense, of course. But when I think of those old women at the back of the church, carefully ignored by the nice middle class families around them, I can see how Irish society allowed the Church to pretend it was true.