Illegitimacy and the Magdalene Laundries


Yesterday, as part of the research for my work-in-progress – a book about the stigma of illegitimacy – I had an extraordinary conversation. It was with a woman whose mother Margaret was incarcerated in one of the notorious Magdalene Laundries when she was born. Margaret gave birth to three children while imprisoned in the laundry; she wasn’t there (as so many others were) because she was illegitimate herself, but because her mother was resident in a mental hospital and her father couldn’t cope with the children. So Margaret was sentenced to institutional care at the age of 2, and stayed there until she died at 51 of Goodpastures Disease, caused by the industrial chemicals used at Magdalene Laundries.

Margaret’s daughter is compassionate, fiercely intelligent, and burns with a strong sense of social justice. She loves and is proud of Margaret. And she’s given me SO much to think about.


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