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“The story is powerful and moving and Esther’s unhappy experience will remain with the reader.”—Publishers Weekly
"This book pulls no punches . . . Marita Conlon-McKenna is breaking new ground with The Magdalen." --Image
"[The Magdalen is] a pretty grim read although the solidarity of the women and their enduring will for survival is an inspiration." --U Magazine
Excerpted from The Magdalen by Conlon-McKenna, Marita Copyright © 2002 by Conlon-McKenna, Marita. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted March 26, 2013
Because the author writes in first-person style, the reader becomes Esther, sees things through her eyes and imagines what it would have been like to be in her horrible situation. I liked both this book, but not as well as the book: "Childhood Interrupted". There is a movie about the Magdalene Laundries called "The Magdalene Sisters" which is revealing--and disturbing, but I wish someone like Stephen Spielberg would do another movie to tell this tale in the manner it deserves to be told.
The Catholic Church had slaves as late as 1996! In 2013, the Irish government released a report on this scandal--a damning 1,000-plus page report on Feb. 5, 2013 detailed the way women and girls were forced into slavery for the nun-controlled laundries, which the movie, The Magdalene Sisters, exposes:
U.N. HAD TO GET INVOLVED: The inquiry into the Magdalene scandal was prompted by a report from the UN Committee Against Torture in June 2011. It called for prosecutions where necessary and compensation to surviving women.
IRELAND CLOSED VATICAN EMBASSY IN 2012: To watch a scathing T.V. news report from Dublin on the astonishing closing of the Vatican's embassy in 2012, Google "Ireland in Row over Catholic Church." The report's findings follow investigations where priests were found to have beaten and raped children in Catholic-run institutions, and the church helped cover-up for the rapes--priests were simply transferred to serve elsewhere; over 50 were sent to churches in the USA! That, and now the slavery of women have shattered the authority of the church in Ireland and rocked the Catholic Church's reputation worldwide.
988 GRAVES FOUND ON CHURCH GROUNDS OF WOMEN and GIRLS WHO DID NOT SURVIVE IT: At least 988 of the women who were buried in laundry grounds are thought to have spent most of their lives inside the institutions. The youngest death (on record) was 15, and the oldest 95, the report found.
YOUNG GIRLS IN ADDITION TO WOMEN: The youngest slave (on record) was a 9 year-old girl. There were many slaves around 12 years-old. Half of the girls enslaved in these Catholic Church prisons were under the age of 23, when the church turned them into slaves. But older women were there, too; which scared the young ones who feared they would spend the rest of their lives in that horror... and nobody reassured them otherwise. Even today, survivors suffer from psychological trauma inflicted upon them.
WHAT WERE THE SLAVES TOLD: They were not informed WHY they were there, they had no information on WHEN they could leave and were denied contact with the outside world," said the Feb. 5, 2013 report.
LIKE MOST SLAVES, COULDN'T EVEN KEEP THEIR NAMES: Labelled the "Maggies", the women and girls were stripped of their names and dumped in Irish Catholic church-run laundries where nuns treated them as slaves.
HOW DID THE SLAVES END UP THERE: Simply because they were unmarried mothers, orphans or regarded as somehow morally wayward--in the movie, when an orphan objects that she's never even been with a boy and was a good girl, the nun explains she was there because she was a "temptress". Some were enslaved for "crimes" as small as not paying a train ticket!
HOW LONG DID THE SLAVERY GO ON: Although the movie starts out in 1964, for over 74 years, 10,000 women were forced to be slaves in de facto detention, mostly in laundries run by nuns at the nunnery the official report investigated. (But, there are similar Catholic Church-run institutions who used slavery in Ireland not yet investigated.) The last Magdalene Laundry the government is aware of closed in 1996.
WHY DIDN'T THEY ESCAPE: For many, the only escape was death. Doors and gates were locked. Nuns acted as guards. Punishment was severe for any who attempted to escape. If they were able to make it to the outside world, the nuns simply called the Irish police force, who dutifully believed anything the nuns told them, and captured the escapees and returned the slaves to the nuns. 15 percent spent more than five years in the laundries while the average stay was calculated at seven months, according to one report. But some victims say they spent most of their adult lives as slaves for the Catholic Church.
WHOSE LAUNDRY WAS IT: The Catholic Church made money off their slaves' labor, forcing them to launder for private firms, individuals, and even the state.
STATE GUILTY, AS WELL AS CATHOLIC CHURCH: The state gave lucrative laundry contracts to the Catholic Church's nunnery-run laundry institutions, without either the Church or the State bothering to comply with Fair Wage Clauses and in the absence of any compliance with Social Insurance obligations.
HOW THE CATHOLIC CHURCH EXCUSED IT: Surprise, surprise, the Catholic Church blew the women off: Cardinal Sean Brady, the most senior Catholic cleric in Ireland, met with Justice for Magdalenes in 2010. He said "by today's standards much of what happened at that time is difficult to comprehend" but that it was a matter for the religious orders who ran the laundries to deal with. The religious orders have declined to meet the women. (It's not the Catholic Church's fault... where have we heard THAT before? Just whose fault IS it, then?)
Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord. God will repay. Until then, I pray for the victims, both dead and alive.WARNING: You will cry when you read the books and movies about this horrific abuse in recent history. Just knowing that it is true, was enough to tear my heart out. I repeat, the Catholic Church had slaves as late as 1996!!!
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Posted March 6, 2002
In 1952 Dublin in the birthing room of the Sisters of the Holy Saints Magdalen Home for Wayward Girls and Fallen Women, between contractions Esther Doyle thinks back on how she ended amongst the abandoned. Esther knows that in spite of her family rejection due to her unmarried pregnancy and her lover¿s betrayal she is a good person. From western Ireland, since arriving in the grim place, she wonders if she will ever see the ocean with her child. <P> Esther has earned her room, board, and medical assistance doing laundry while waiting the birth. She knows her child will reside next door in the almost as grim orphanage, but at least the infant will have sustenance. However, she knows her unborn will receive little else as even the nuns reject the infant¿s innocence in spite their lofty calling. Still Esther has learned from her sister 'Maggies' and dreams of a life for herself with her child outside this convent prison. <P> With the acceptance of out of wedlock children in recent years, THE MAGDALEN may seem obsolete, but instead, the novel is a powerful historical tale that sheds a light on 1950s morality. The story line brilliantly written in a first person dialogue enables the audience to feel all that Esther feels as she garners empathy from modern day readers to the plights of her and her soon to be born child in a world that condemns even the blameless. Marita Conlon-Mckenna provides fans of mid twentieth century historical novels with a juggernaut of a morality tale that is one of the genre¿s best in recent years. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 22, 2013
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