Claire McGettrick Ireland and the Magdalene Laundries: A Campaign for Justice


Code 9780755617494
Add to Basket

Between 1922 and 1996, over 10,000 girls and women were imprisoned in Magdalene Laundries, including those considered 'promiscuous', a burden to their families or the state, those who had been sexually abused or raised in the care of the Church and State, and unmarried mothers. These girls and women were subjected to forced labour as well as psychological and physical maltreatment.

Using the Irish State's own report into the Magdalene institutions, as well as testimonies from survivors and independent witnesses, this book gives a detailed account of life behind the high walls of Ireland's Magdalene institutions.

The book offers an overview of the social, cultural and political contexts of institutional survivor activism, the Irish State's response culminating in the McAleese Report, and the formation of the Justice for Magdalenes campaign, a volunteer-run survivor advocacy group. Ireland and the Magdalene Laundries documents the ongoing work carried out by the Justice for Magdalenes group in advancing public knowledge and research into Magdalene Laundries, and how the Irish State continues to evade its responsibilities not just to survivors of the Magdalenes but also in providing a truthful account of what happened.

Drawing from a variety of primary sources, this book reveals the fundamental flaws in the state's investigation and how the treatment of the burials, exhumation and cremation of former Magdalene women remains a deeply troubling issue today, emblematic of the system of torture and studious official neglect in which the Magdalene women lived their lives.

The Authors are donating all royalties in the name of the women who were held in the Magdalenes to EPIC (Empowering People in Care).

About the Author

Claire McGettrick is an Irish Research Council postgraduate scholar at the School of Sociology at University College Dublin, Ireland. Her research interests focus on adoption, so-called historical abuses, and related injustices in twentieth-century Ireland.

She is cofounder of Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR) and Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA). She jointly coordinates the multi-award-winning CLANN project with Dr Maeve O'Rourke, as well as the Magdalene Names Project (MNP), which has recorded the details of over 1,900 women who lived and died in Ireland's Magdalen laundries.

Katherine O'Donnell is Associate Professor, History of Ideas, UCD School of Philosophy, Ireland, and has published widely on the history of sexuality and gender and the intellectual history of eighteenth-century Ireland.

She has been principal investigator on a number of funded research projects, including gathering an archival and oral history of the Magdalen institutions funded by the Irish Research Council. Her teaching awards include the UCD President's Gold Medal for Teaching Excellence and the British Universities' Learning On-Screen Award. As a member of Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR), she has shared in activist honours, including the Irish Labour Party's Thirst for Justice Award.

Maeve O'Rourke is lecturer in human-rights law at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway, and a graduate of University College Dublin, Harvard Law School, and Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham. She is also a barrister (England and Wales) and attorney-at-law (New York).

Since 2009 she has provided pro bono legal assistance to Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR) and is currently co-director of the CLANN project, an evidence-gathering and advocacy collaboration between JFMR, Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA), and Hogan Lovells International, LLP. She was named UK Family Law Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year in 2013.

James M Smith is an associate professor in the English department at Boston College. He has published articles in Signs, The Journal of the History of Sexuality, Eire-Ireland, and ELH.

His book, Ireland's Magdalen Laundries and the Nation's Architecture of Containment (Notre Dame UP), was published in 2007 and was awarded the Donald Murphy Prize for Distinguished First Book by the American Conference for Irish Studies. He is a member of the advocacy group Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR).

Mari Steed was one of more than 2,000 children exported from Ireland to the United States, and was born in the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork, where she also endured being part of the vaccine trials.

Mari's mother spent time in a Magdalen laundry. She serves as U.S. coordinator with the Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA). In 2003 Mari cofounded Justice for Magdalens/Research (JFMR), an advocacy organisation that successfully campaigned for a state apology and restorative justice for survivors of Ireland's Magdalen laundries. She currently serves on the group's executive committee.

Delivery Info

We provide FREE delivery in the Republic of Ireland when you spend €49 or more. 

FREE Click & Collect from The Ennis Bookshop. You will not be charged for this service.  We are happy to arrange Delivery outside Ireland. Please e-mail us at for more information. 

Find out more about our Delivery & Collection services

Returns Policy

We want you to be completely satisfied with your order and we would hope to resolve any problems you may have. If you are unhappy with your purchase, we will exchange or refund the item or issue a credit note, providing the goods are not damaged and all packaging is still intact.

Terms and conditions apply.

Please view our full Returns Policy for further information.

Click to view complete product details

'This brave book is an archive of an unfinished movement, a survey of the continuing harms of so-called 'historical abuse', and a set of demands for law reform and political change. In places, it is also a love letter to those who survived Ireland's Magdalene laundries. In devastating detail, it shows how Irish politicians, professionals and members of religious orders have resisted demands that these women be recognised as victims of human rights abuse. More than a description of Justice for Magdalenes' campaigning and research, it is an important challenge to official histories and excuses that stubbornly carry undeserved weight in Irish public discourse.'
- Mairead Enright, University of Birmingham

'The campaign for justice for the girls and women incarcerated in Magdalene laundries is one of the greatest acts of truth-telling in the recent history of Ireland. The walls of institutional denial have had to be demolished slowly and painfully, brick by brick. The experiences of those most involved in this task, so vividly detailed in this vital book, tell us so much, not just about a history that was shamefully obscured, but about the imperative for every society to really know itself. In helping the survivors to reclaim their dignity, this indispensable book also helps the rest of us to reclaim the true meaning of shared citizenship and common humanity.'
- Fintan O'Toole, Irish Times Journalist and Orwell Prize winner

'It is impossible to describe the toxic fog of shame, distortion and indifference these writers worked through so the truth of the Magdalen Laundries could be seen in a proper light. No one wanted to know. They are my heroes.'
- Anne Enright, Author and winner of the 2007 Booker Prize


POP-IN HTML goes here


Your Basket

Your basket is currently empty