The stories of the survivors of the Magdalene Laundries have been illustrated in a new collection of never before seen online archives.
The Justice for Magdalenes Research group and Waterford Institute of Technology collaborated to capture and examine the oral histories of those who lived and worked within the Magdalene Laundries and Industrial Schools located in the South-East of Ireland.
The Magdalene Laundries were institutions run by the Catholic Church and operated from the 18th to the late 20th centuries. In recent years, a number of revelations have exposed the horrific conditions of these homes, in particular, a discovery in 1993 of an unmarked mass grave containing 155 corpses underneath a laundry in Dublin.
The new, searchable database consists of thousands of documents.
Dr Jennifer O’ Mahoney and Kieran Cronin have both been working on the project over the last few years, and believe the material establishes that the state was complicit in the operation of the laundries.
According to the Irish Examiner, some of the material may even suggest that girls may have been sent directly from the criminal justice system into the laundries as a form of internment.
A list of the recordings is available on the Waterford Memories Project website here.
The recordings include the story of Maureen, who is the youngest Magdalene laundry survivor on record, having been brought to a Magdalene laundry at the age of twelve, and Elizabeth who was just two years old when she was sent to a laundry in Cork.
According to Dr O' Mahoney, a psychologist based at Waterford Institute of Technology: "This project is about more than research and educational pursuits; there is a genuine responsibility to recognise the trauma these women suffered in silence, and respond to their needs and desire to disseminate their stories according to their wishes. As Principal Investigator for this project, I am both honoured and humbled by these women and their bravery to publicly tell their stories. This project is not about giving the Magdalene survivors a voice – it is about providing the platform for their voice to be heard, coupled with professional analysis."
The original archives are stored at WIT, while the digitised archive will also be made available to the public at UCD archives.