The Asylums of the Magdalenas | Know its terrible history

The asylums of the Magdalenas were religious institutions present mainly in Ireland and financed by the state in which they welcomed the "fallen women" (We will talk about this term later), in principle to give them a home. And we say this because, in reality, they involved a harsh punishment in which they were exploited with demanding physical work and even abuse.

The asylum scandal, also known as the Magdalenas laundries, broke out in 1993, when 155 bodies were discovered in a common grave in the courtyard of one of the asylums. This unpleasant event was the trigger for the unveiling of situations of abuse and exploitation that some of the women sheltered in the institution experienced. In Supercurious we tell you all the details.

The terrible story of the "Asylums of the Magdalenas"

Nurseries of the Magdalenas Laundromat

1. The tenants of the asylums

Between the curiosities of Dublin we found that there the first laundry or asylum of the Magdalenas was founded in 1765 The last one closed in 1996. As we commented, although the intention of the asylums was good (providing a home for homeless women, as prostitutes or homeless single mothers) soon the type of tenants they received began to be broader.

At the time, although it was considered that a "fallen woman" was a prostitute, the expression soon began to become more general and to the asylums not only came women of life, but also single mothers or even girls who were simply too flirtatious or had had some slip. Women entered especially at the request of a relative or their priest.

2. The goal of nursing homes

As we said, the goal of the asylums was to give a home to these women that society considered in need and apart from the "good" people (another proof of the fact that when a woman does not fit into the socially accepted, she is marginalized and punished). However, and as is imaginable, despite wanting to change society and eliminate the scourge of prostitution, the asylums achieved rather little. Maybe if they had gone to those who requested the services of prostitutes, another rooster would sing.

In any case, for the Magdalenas' asylums this situation was not completely negative, since they could have practically free labor for as long as the inmates were admitted .

For these two reasons (to maintain the rancid morality of the time and free labor) the asylums became more and more common. And, do you remember that before we said that the expression "fallen woman" did not only refer to prostitutes? A study by Frances Finnegan called Repent or die: a study of the Magdalens' asylums in Ireland ( Do Penance or Perish: A Study of Magdalen Asylums in Ireland ) states that it was precisely at this point, when asylums began to appear as mushrooms throughout Ireland and there were not enough inmates to fill them, the term "fallen woman" began to encompass many other types of women.

3. The secrets of the asylums of the Magdalenas

Asylums of the Magdalenas building

It is unknown how many inmates were in the asylums, although it is estimated that only during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were about 30,000. It is difficult to know this type of figures, as well as the files of the inmates, even in the ownership of the church to this day.

The scandal, as we mentioned, jumped from the discovery of a common grave with 155 bodies in one of these asylums , when their owners, the sisters of Our Lady of Charity, lost money when investing in the stock market and decided to cover part of the losses selling the building.

The bodies were exhumed and cremated, but it was too late to avoid the scandal. Survivors of the asylums told chilling stories of physical, psychological and sexual abuse in the documentary Sex in cold climate and, later, there was even a film based very lightly on the documentary, called The Magdalene sisters (although the survivors describe it as too soft).

4. The mistreatment of the tenants

Although life in the asylums was very opaque, mainly because of the secrecy of the church , there are several testimonies of inmates that make the hair stand on end. In the documentary Sex in cold climate For example, one of the survivors tells how she was transferred to an asylum from the orphanage where she grew up because she was "too pretty", while another one is transferred to the asylum after being sexually abused by her cousin and another, because she has a son out of wedlock.

Once they arrive at the institution of the Magdalenas, the nuns force the single mothers to give their child for adoption. In addition, the inmates are forbidden to talk to each other (one of the nuns cut her hair to one of them for having made friends with another of the inmates) and even change the name.

5. The end of the asylums

Asylums of the Magdalenas stone

With the change of sexual morality, which little by little has been opened more, the last asylum of the Magdalenas closed in the year 1996. However, it was not until 2013 that the survivors receive a note of forgiveness from the state, which considered the asylums "the shame of the country."

The history of the Magdalenas asylums is terrible, is not it? Tell us, did you know this aspect of the story? Has he outraged you as much as we have? Remember that you can tell us what you want, to do it, you just have to leave us a comment!

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