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Do Penance or PerishMagdalen Asylums in Ireland$
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Frances Finnegan

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195174601

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195174601.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Do Penance or Perish

Frances Finnegan

Oxford University Press

The two major responses to prostitution in nineteenth-century Britain were the so called Rescue or Penitentiary Movement, and the Contagious Diseases legislation. In Ireland, admittedly, women had little involvement in outside Rescue Work. Nevertheless, they were extremely active in “recommending” women to Magdalen Asylums; and more significantly, where family members were responsible for such admissions, 72% of those “brought” to the Good Shepherd Homes were consigned to the institutions by female relatives. Further, the largest, most successful and most enduring Refuges to which penitents were confined were staffed and managed exclusively by nuns. Continuing to operate even when the Women's Movement was at its height, the Magdalen System in Ireland lingered on unnoticed, its victims not, apparently, a matter of concern. Tragically, scores of penitents (or “ladies” as they were latterly called) were still in the Homes in the early 1990s, when these once thriving empires were belatedly sold.

Keywords:   Magdalen Asylums, Ireland, Rescue, Penitentiary Movement, Contagious Diseases legislation

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