chapter  8
Reforming the feminine
The Magdalen laundries
Pages 33

In 2013 Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) made public a section of its 2012 submission to the Inter-Departmental Committee investigating the state's involvement in the laundries. After the Second Vatican Council, the laundries gradually changed, in part due to changing attitudes in church and society, and because with advances in washing machines the laundries themselves ceased to be financially viable. The influences of class, gender and sexual ethics, the nineteenth-century penal system, attempts to curb the spread of syphilis, and the changing shape and nature of an increasingly industrialised society were all factors that contributed to the establishment of the female penitentiary system in Ireland. Philanthropy played a significant role in the production of gender and the discourse of sexuality. The Anglican sisterhood homes are the closest English counterparts to Ireland's Magdalen laundries. Even the legislative mechanisms of the Irish Free State, it seems, were formulated to obscure the problems that research into Irish morality reveal.