This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book examines the shame affect and emotion and focuses on the power of shame narratives in the performance of gender. It explores an episode in Irish sexual/gender history which contributes to an understanding of the laundries, of the way sexually transgressive women were managed and of the theoretical concepts that suggest themselves within the discursive field of Roman Catholic Ireland. The book argues that the Magdalen laundries amplified the shame of their inmates who were at once forcibly hidden away and exposed by the stigma of their situation, by the physical demeanour of shame they were forced to adopt and by the language of sin and penance that formed part of their daily correction. Shame starts in the body as affect, its origins in attachment relations in infancy causing it to wield considerable influence over an individual's emotional and psychological development.