Price: $195.00

    Code: 1986

    Directed by Steve Humphries
    1998, color and B&W, 50 mins.

    This historical documentary is a deeply disturbing portrait of Magdalene Asylums run by Catholic nuns in Ireland. For over a hundred years girls and young women were sent to live and work in the Magdalene Asylums' Laundries after they'd had sexual or ‘sinful' contact with men. Of the 30,000 women who were imprisoned in them, many never got out. The last one didn't close until 1996. The video features interviews with several women detained in Magdalene Asylums between the 1940s and the 1960s. The purpose of the Asylums—named after the repentant biblical prostitute Mary Magdalene—was to correct the supposed sexual deviance of young women. Getting pregnant out of wedlock and having an illegitimate baby, like Christina Mulcahy, made you an obvious candidate. But the criteria of deviance was so vague and wide ranging that some Magdalenes didn't know why they had been put away. Phyllis Valentine was sent there because she was considered "too pretty" and therefore a moral danger to herself and others. Martha Cooney was put away after she complained that a cousin had sexually molested her. The Asylums were often run by abusive and even sadistic nuns. All the women featured eventually escaped, but the emotional and physical strain these Magdalenes had to endure led to damaged lives.

    Subjects & Collections

    Festivals & Awards

    Silver Hugo
    Chicago International Film Festival


    “What a pleasure,in the current surge of docu-soaps and their more stylish but similarly one-dimensional cousins,to see a study with some historical perspective.” — Time Out London

    “...a breathtaking documentary.” — The Sunday Times

    “...the most revealing work to date on Ireland ’s so-called fallen women.” — The Irish Examiner