Between the Bricks, Laundry Lies

The topic I had chosen for this project was the Magdalene laundries. To summarize, the Magdalene laundries were church run institutions running from the 18th to the late 20th century. It was a place that housed “fallen women” as they called it. Mainly it was prostitutes and whores that populated these asylums. But then the term became more broadened as there were more unmarried mothers within these, now essentially, work houses. Not only were these work houses in Ireland, but in Austraila, Canada, England, and even our own United States. It wasn’t until a mass grave was found on the grounds of a former laundries location in Dublin in 1993 that an investigation began and then ended in 2013. The laundries were then shut down after the finding of the mass grave.

Through the eyes of those who experienced this traumatic environment, there was an interview with Kathleen Legg, who was a survivor of the Laundries. She talks and describes in detail about her life inside and the nightmares she has about the place after experiencing the tragic life.

Another view point is through the eyes of the Catholic church. They believe they were doing justice by keeping women, such as prostitutes, off the streets. Only imprisoning them in torturous environments. But is there more to the Catholic views? Is there more to the eyes of the catholic that has not been seen? The Irish Government had a role in this, but what was their view of the Laundries? Did they believe they were doing right just as the Catholic Church did? What were the views of the women during this time? How did they view the Catholic Church and its practices for the Laundries?

Throughout my research on this topic, Irish identity was prominently shown, especially in the forms of theatrical production. The main question I wanted to tackle was, what was the experience of being forced to live in the Magdalene laundries and how does that pertain to the view of Irish identity through a woman’s lens? This, I felt, was important to ask as it gives a good point as to see who these people are. What are their feelings toward others? Are they a collective and work together toward a common goal of living through their struggles? Or are they more of the kind of “Survival of the Fittest” or you’re on your own kind of mentality. I saw through plays like Juno and the Pay Cock and Eclipsed that they followed much more of a collective “family” kind of relationship. This relationship pertains to their identity as who Irish women and more to the idea, the Irish populous is. They work together to achieve a common goal. Whether it is surviving within a corrupt church driven asylum or elsewhere, this is my depiction of Irish identity, right or wrong as it may be.

2 thoughts on “Between the Bricks, Laundry Lies

  1. Meghan Keefe

    It’s interesting that you talk about how the women of Dublin lived and how people thought less of them. This is very similar to the trans- Atlantic slave trade and the start of Afro-creole religions. You write: “They believe they were doing justice by keeping women, such as prostitutes, off the streets. Only imprisoning them in torturous environments. ” Most European Americans believed that African Americans weren’t worth anything, and giving them “jobs” was kind of them. The slaves, as most of us know, lived in awful living conditions and were over-worked and under-fed. You ask the question “was the experience of being forced to live in the Magdalene laundries and how does that pertain to the view of Irish identity through a woman’s lens?” The slave trade reformed and mixed a bunch of different religions to form their own. For example, Santeria, which is what my class in Shaking the Spirit COR 330-05 talked about throughout the semester. Santeria, also known as Regla de Ocha or La Regla de Lukumi, originated among the Yoruba people in Nigeria People who practiced these religions adapted to their surroundings and concealed their own religions by pretending they were worshiping Roman Catholicism. But the slave trade shaped an extremely interesting and powerful religion that many practice not only in Cuba, but also in the United States. My class and your research topic shows that there is struggle all around the world, not only in places that were affected by the slave trade. The Santeros/as (which are what those in Santeria are called) did survive through the worst times of their lives (along with their ancestors). But their faith, identity, and family togetherness gave them the strength to move forward.

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  2. Christopher Vernali

    This topic is a very interesting one to think about and I find it very interesting that it was mainly a problem in places where the British Empire had its most prominent hold on the region. It would be advantages to look at other areas of the world where Christianity was extremely present to see if they dealt with similar problems. Was this a problem that only British colonies were forced to deal with like, America, Canada, Australia or South Africa? Also it looking into if it was a prospect of the mindset of the people in these countries who followed this religion or more so the religion itself. Making sure this essay isn’t a desecration of the entire religion due to this one horrific act needs to be taken into account because there are many other aspects of Christianity at the time. Looking at this issue through the lens of women at the time and what women not subject to these gruesome conditions thought the status of these people were could also give the paper more weight.

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