The Laundries were abusive institutions disguised as rehabilitation centersWikimedia Commons

Today marks the 19th anniversary of the day the last Magdalene Laundry in Ireland closed for good in 1996.

Also known as Magdalene asylums, Magdalene Laundries were cruel and medieval institutions in which women were imprisoned, stripped of their human rights and abused sexually and otherwise.

Women sent here were deemed “mischievous” or “scandalous” at an incredibly young age, and spent years and years of their lives doing penance for their sins, guarded by ruthless nuns.

The Laundries were disguised as rehabilitation centers for “fallen” women; in reality, they rarely made it out alive. A mass grave of 155 corpses was discovered in Dublin in 1993.

It wasn’t until 2001 that the Irish Government admitted they were institutions of abuse – a formal state apology was issued in 2013 with an $82 million compensation scheme.

The last Magdalene Laundry in Ireland was the Convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity on Sean MacDermott Street in Dublin. At the height of its productivity, 150 women worked there, and 40 women were in residence when it closed, the eldest being 79.

The Magdalene Laundries, named after Mary Magdalene who was in earlier centuries characterized as a converted prostitute, existed from the early 1760s through the late 1990s in Ireland, the UK, Australia and the US. An estimated 30,000 women were confined.

For more IrishCentral articles about the Magdalene Laundries, read:

The Magdalene daughter who brought justice to her mother

American survivor of Magdalene Laundries in the United States speaks out

Church accused of ignoring Magdalene Laundry survivors

Magdalene survivors seek recognition from UN Committee Against Torture 

UN Committee Against Torture asks for inquiry into Magdalene Laundries 

Justice for Magdalenes brings their case to UN