Today marks the 21st 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 to the 'Laundries' 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, the women rarely made it out alive from these places. 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.

Here is an award-winning documentary on the Magdalene Laundries:

For more IrishCentral articles about the Magdalene Laundries, read:

- Remarkable film of Magdalene laundry women and nuns surfaces

- "The nuns forcibly separated us" recalls former Tuam baby snatched from his mother

- Ireland’s forgotten diaspora - banished unwed mothers and adopted babies

- What you should know about mother and baby homes in Ireland

The Laundries were abusive institutions disguised as rehabilitation centers.