• The Magdalen Laundries: holding Irish society to account for the treatment of fallen women

      Donohue, Nikki A. (2021-05)
      The Magdalen Laundries, or Magdalen Asylums, operated from the eighteenth century to 1996 in Ireland. In 1993 a major scandal erupted when 155, originally 133, unidentified bodies were found in a mass grave on the convent grounds. Eventually, news broke to the Irish public that the “fallen women,” who were sent to the laundries for having children out of wedlock or deviating from societal norms in any other ways, were actually being abused mentally and physically by the nuns running the facilities. When the laundries first began operating, they started out as rehabilitation centers for women to come and go to learn to live better lives by Irish Catholic standards and eventually, the women were sentenced to the laundries by court orders to work for the Irish public. Historians have cited the Magdalen Laundries for arguments surrounding a lack of accountability from the Irish Church and State, reproductive justice and domesticity, and Ireland’s reliance on contemporary slavery. This paper will argue the level to which the Irish public should be held accountable for being complicit and upholding the social norms that landed the women in the laundries. This question is important to answer because this framework can be used for more modern events and cases of oppression that still impact us today.