Feb 7, 2013

Voices That Need to Heard, The Women of the Magdalene Laundries

If you don't know about the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland, You can read about it here
Recently there was an inquiry to find out if the Irish government was involved, as so many who were victims of this system purported. And it was true. At least a quarter of the women were sent there by the state. There was no formal apology, not yet, and that has these women and their families feeling as though they've not been heard. At least one group is trying to change that with an oral history project. 

It's a sad and even horrifying fact of Irish history that thousands of women were detained and forced to work long, hard hours scrubbing away their sins in places that were called Magdalene Laundries. If you've never heard of them before, read this.

And before you think this is a historical story, the last of them was closed in 1996.

You might wonder how it all came to light. According to this website, here's how:

In 1993, church property held by the Sisters of Charity in Dublin which once served as a convent laundry was to be sold back to the Republic for public use. It was discovered at that time that some 133 graves existed, unmarked, in a cemetery on the convent grounds. The graves belonged to women who had worked in the service of the convent all their lives, buried without notification to possible family...unmarked, unremembered. When the discovery was made, a cry arose in the streets of Dublin...families came forth to identify and claim some of the women as their long-lost daughters, mothers, grandmothers, and sisters. Yet many remained unidentified.

Members of the Magdalene Survivors Together group on their way into Leinster House for a meeting with Senator Martin McAleese last year. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
Magdalene Survivors who testified. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
Sinead O'Connor (remember when she ripped up a photographed of the Pope and received a lot of backlash?) recently said she also suffered in a Magdalene Laundry.

It is not my intention to bash the church or the Irish government. There is good among the bad, as everywhere. But Celtic Voices like these must be heard. I've written about it in Book Two of The Ellis Island Series.

You cannot scrub away your sins with hard work and discipline or dissolve them with your shame. You cannot be spiritually freed by continually being told how bad you are. God made you in His image, and He can scrub away all that's bad in you so that the good you, your true self, is whiter than snow. ~"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. Isaiah 1:18 NIV