I was an unmarried girl
I’d just turned twenty-seven
When they sent me to the sisters
For the way men looked at me
Branded as a jezebel
I knew I was not bound for Heaven
I’d be cast in shame
Into the Magdalene laundries *

Most girls come here pregnant
Some by their own fathers
Bridget got that belly
By her parish priest
We’re trying to get things white as snow
All of us woe-begotten-daughters
In the steaming stains
Of the Magdalene laundries

Prostitutes and destitutes
And temptresses like me
Fallen women
Sentenced into dreamless drudgery
Why do they call this heartless place
Our Lady of Charity?
Oh charity!

These bloodless brides of Jesus
If they had just once glimpsed their groom
Then they’d know and they’d drop the stones
Concealed behind their rosaries
They wilt the grass they walk upon
They leech the light out of a room
They’d like to drive us down the drain
At the Magdalene laundries

Peg O’Connell died today
She was a cheeky girl
A flirt
They just stuffed her in a hole!
Surely to God you’d think at least some bells should ring!
One day I’m going to die here too
And they’ll plant me in the dirt
Like some lame bulb
That never blooms come any spring
Not any spring
No, not any spring
Not any spring

The truth is I was nine, my parents where both executed, and I had no sisters or brothers aunts or uncles that could help. When I entered the laundries it scared me to think that I may never leave. Some”girls” where nearly forty years old, some barely my age, placed into “care” for as little as looking at a man with devilment in her eyes, or for being pregnant, our “immorally thinking thoughts of an unclean nature,” probably the very same thoughts that made these girls in the first place.

I ran at fourteen stowed away and never looked back, of I learned any thing there it was simply that religion hates, good hates, and punishments are swift and cruel. I vowed never to let myself be that way with any one. And yet this song by Joni Mitchell is perhaps the closest any one has come to telling the reality of truth of these dread filled places, thank “god” they have ceased to be. Rose.

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