On December 14, 1650, 22-year old Anne Greene was led up the gallows in Oxford. She had been charged with infanticide; after sleeping with her employer’s grandson, she gave birth to a child—one she insisted was stillborn—whose body had been found “covered…with dust and rubbish” in the outhouse where she delivered it.1 After praying and… Read more →
Incarcerating Eve: Women’s Health “Care” in Prisons and Jails
In Season 4 of the hit Netflix original Orange is the New Black, we get a glimpse into the healthcare issues that plague incarcerated women in prisons. The fifth episode of the new season focuses on the crisis that the characters face when the prison has a tampon and maxi pad shortage. This shortage of… Read more →
Sex, Secrecy, and Abuse in a 19th-Century Workhouse
“He asked him if he had seen the doctor having connection with a nurse.” Archives pose constant distractions. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve mentally stored away a snippet not directly relevant to the task at hand, but to be used somewhere, at some indefinable point in the future. It’s one of… Read more →
Netflix’s Jessica Jones as a Story of Resiliency
Modern television is not known for its nuanced portrayal of rape and sexual violence. Much of the recent discussion about depictions of rape on television has focused on Game of Thrones, HBO’s massively popular television series based on a series of novels by George R.R. Martin. Game of Thrones has been criticized for its on-screen… Read more →
Fallen Women Forgiven: Enda Kenny and the Magdalene Laundries
By Helen McBride
Prompted by the UN Committee against Torture in 2011 to set up an inquiry, the Irish government has released a report on State collusion with the Catholic Church in the treatment of girls and women in the work houses known as the Magdalene Laundries. These Laundries were run by four Roman Catholic orders of nuns.
The laundries were institutions started by the Catholic Church in 1922, in which thousands of vulnerable women were incarcerated. While in reality those sent to the laundries were products of poverty, homelessness, and dysfunctional families, the myth of the “bad girl” and “fallen woman” sent to the laundries to reform has persisted. Those that were sent to these institutions spent months or years in hard labour, with no access to education, little respect and in many cases lived in constant fear. Work included doing laundry for hotels, hospitals and prisons.