Honour Magdalene legacy by helping women of today – historian

Honour Magdalene legacy by helping women of today – historian

Investment to help vulnerable women would be the best way of commemorating the experiences of women who spent time in Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries, according to the author of an important study of two Dublin laundries.

“Dare I say that the most fitting memorial to women and girls who found themselves in Magdalene laundries, for however long, would be to invest in services that keep women today from ending up homeless, that support them in the struggle of parenting, that give them routeways into employment,” Maynooth University’s Dr Jacinta Prunty told The Irish Catholic.

Adding “what I’d like to see is investment in local services that open doors and give reasons for hope”, Dr Prunty said that education should be at the heart of this.


Dr Prunty, author of The Monasteries, Magdalen Asylums and Reformatory Schools of Our Lady of Charity in Ireland, 1853-1973, was speaking against the background of Dublin City Council’s vote earlier this month to block a planned sale of the site of the Seán McDermott Street laundry to a Japanese hotel chain.

The decision opens a way to placing a memorial on the site to commemorate those who suffered institutional abuse in Ireland.

Echoing the recent call from Dr Gillian O’Brien of Liverpool’s John Moore’s University that a museum would commemorate the complex history of the laundries better than a straightforward memorial, Dr Prunty said Dublin’s new Tenement Museum might be a better location for a museum than Seán McDermott Street.

“The building fronting Seán McDermott Street is actually the convent, home to the nuns who took charge in 1888 and built, and rebuilt, the complex,” she said.


Over time the site housed a range of residential projects including emergency accommodation and a teenage training centre, all of which intertwine with the history of the area and with changes in society.

“All these things considered, I wonder would the new Tenement Museum, 14 Henrietta Street, be a good future venue for a museum display dealing with the Magdalene Laundries and other types of residential homes or shelters, including the workhouse system,” she ventured, saying that such a location would help give context to a history that is currently being explored.