The Magdalene Memoirs



Welcome, but beware as some of the content in my Blog may be off the Catholic Wall!

However, please feel comfortable to post and write freely on this blog. I hope it will swell to embody many stories from women who have experienced life under the hand of Catholicism and her Nuns within the Magdalene Laundry or, "The Pines" as it was called in Adelaide, Australia.

The Good Shepherd Convent, or Magdalen Assylum, first opened in Cork Ireland on the 29th July 1872. It was the site of an orphanage and a Magdalene laundry until the late 1970s.

The shocking imprisonment of young girls for 'subjective dishonor' seems inhumane for the 20th century, yet, it happened! and continues to in sheep's clothing or cloaked habit forms.

In saying this, there are positive stories to be shared here too, I certainly have some myself - full of humor and gutzo intertwined with the fear and sorrow of that 13 yr. old little girl. I personally gained from the whole experience in ways that may seem surreal to some. Yet, an ache deep within my soul remains to this day.

Please write, write and write openly and freely from your heart and allow your story to flow, be it good, bad or ugly!!! and, Welcome.

Magdalene Sister,
Wendy




A Magdalene

The Convent of The Good Shepherd; "The Pines"

My photo
Mother Earth, United States
I was an incarcerated Magdalene Laundress for 8 months in 1969 -it seemed like a life time to a teenage girl- "The Pines" or, Good Shepherd Convent was situated on 19 acres of sprawling lavish Catholic real estate at 336 Marion Road, Plympton, South Australia HOWEVER, we only saw half and acre of barbwire en-caged concrete slab, the Convent was operated from 1942-1974 by the Catholic Church under the control of the Children’s Welfare and Public Relief Board and its successors.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

In The Beginning

I have not seen the Magdalen Sisters Movie, but I have seen the trailer. And for me, the chilling scene where the young girl is simply left at the Convent and the door is closed behind her made me shiver, as this was a feeling that I remember all too well.

I was taken to the Pines after being "appropriately expelled" from my High School.  That was one long day.  That morning I awoke to find my (social) Father home from work. This never happened on a week day as he was always off to the Army Barracks.  My Mother told me not to dress in my uniform, too late, I had, and I flew out the door with a desperate gripping feeling.  I think walked to school that day, usually I rode my pushbike. My gut was in turmoil, I was stupefied and fearful, but through out my childhood this feeling was my constant companion. However, I knew something was up. I was unsettled that morning @ school.

I was at my school desk when my name was blasted over the loud speaker, "Wendy Sutton come to the office." There was Mum and Dad  -a first- sitting in the Headmistresses hall way. Mrs. Rumbold was her name. Into the office we all marched like good little soldiers single file. Rumbold sat matronly behind her magnificent desk with my parents sitting on the opposite side discussing this "uncontrollable" person in the room -me-

I was numb. I sat and looked on as they all decided my fate. It was  signed sealed and delivered I was officially expelled from Strathmont Girls Technical High School at age 13. The red headed deputy head mistress was loitering out side Rumbold's office, and as my parents and Miss Rumbold shook hands and passed solemn pleasantry's amongst themselves, Red gestured me over to her. 

She looked at me like a sad eyed spaniel, with her head cocked to one side and biting her lip, she took my hand and said, "for what it is worth Wendy, I am so sorry." She was kind, and so was Rumbold, although they did not agree with my parents judgment concerning me, they still allowed the process to continue. "It's for the best" they said. 

That day was filled with erratic emotions,  I collected all my books and belongings. I remember my entire class rallied around giving me suggestions on how to "run away" or "escape" A friend, Glen Hockly, offered me $2.00 to catch a train and get as far away as possible so my parents would never find me; My psychical education teacher hugged me and cried as she asked what she could do to help me, she then gathered the class in the sports shed to wish me well and everyone was howling. My dearest friends clung to me like bees to honey, it was awful but at the same time wonderful to know how these people loved me.

"I am only going for 3 weeks" ... I blubbered through my snot and tears. I was weak, lost but I soon clicked into disassociate mode which I knew how to do so well by age 13. I think I walked home, talk about the prey walking into the den! I was 13 for God's sake, a very psychologically, spiritually and physically wounded young girl.My teachers knew this as they constantly had me in the office asking questions about my obviously battered body. Of course, I always fell off a swing, fell over, had a fight with my sister................

All I remember next was that silent drive in the little green Ford to the Pines and up the long driveway. I have a reoccurring dream of that long driveway..... but it is a positive dream now-a-days taking me along a long and winding driveway filled with grand exotic trees and powerful waterfalls which lead to my home. A home that has not materialized to this day mind you!

Then with the same poof and pageantry as with Rumbold, I was handed over to the Nuns in total silence. This is where I felt the impact of the Magdalene Sisters movie trailer, when that door was slammed behind me and I was alone not knowing what the hell was going on. I was never informed! I was silently aching.  I had literally been thrown away...........yet again. I just kept thinking it is only for three weeks, yeh right! 3 weeks led to 12 months! 

It was as though I was in that cold empty room for hours when Mother Superior came in and handed me a tidy bundle of drab looking clothes and instructed me to undress. She took my "outside" clothes and she then ushered me into a damn hot disinfectant bath, I will never forget it. Mother -silent but with a stern look on her face- scrubbed me down from head to toe with a bristled scrubbing brush. I was filthy from sin apparently. But, I was a virgin, I was molested by a close family friend -but my Mother did not believe me- and violently raped at 13, but still a virgin to consensual sex;  I did not smoke nor do drugs.

According to my Mum I was uncontrollable, and you know, I am sure I was in her eyes, I was always seeking her attention, apparently. Although I believe this to be true as my Mother did not want me, she herself came out from a sordid marriage with my 7 month old sister in toe and, me on the way! I do not blame my Mother or my Father, they did what they thought was right at the time.

The bath was done, I was told to stand, I did. Mother inspected my body.  I was red raw and crying, well sniveling really as I was too scarred to really let go. Mother passed me a towel that was almost as hard as the bristles on that damn brush! she instructed me to dress. Out she went and closed the door, gently, behind her. I was alone and empty once again wondering what on earth was going on. I consoled myself by thinking I was only in this place for 3 weeks.

Now all dressed up in my "inside clothes" looking like some orphan Anny with wet unruly hair and stinking of disinfectant, eyes red and stinging like fire! I looked about the dark brick room which housed this huge ugly bath, no furniture that I remember anyway, no windows, just two doors. Some of us Madelene Laundresses remember that bath very well.

Mother Superior materialized. It was as though she glided into the room from out of no-where, with her long black habit flowing all round her, she startled me. "Your name will be Jane" she instructed. Then she opened THAT door which led to a concrete court yard. Before I could ask a single question the door was slammed and bolted behind me.

I remember this as if it were yesterday; as the door slammed behind me I turned to see this concrete slab enclosed by TALL fencing with barb wire on top. I shook,  I peed myself, I just wanted to die! I could not cry out loud, but the tears streamed down my face. ..... Other "inmates" came to inspect the new comer and some laughed at me, others looked on from a distance, but one girl stood out amongst the rest, Sharon. Sharon smiled and said "don't worry about them." FORTY FOUR years later we are still the dearest of friends!

So, this was my introduction to the Pines.....


Mum has ever asked me about my experience in the Pines, (or any experiences for that matter) I believe this is because of her own guilt, and yet if we all talk about it, as this Blog allows us to do, it dissipates any guilt. No-one needs to feel guilt, no-one. I do not blame any-one. This took allot of work and self-healing.But today, I still stand alone. We are definitely one of a kind.

7 comments:

  1. For me, the blog revolves around the sexual carnage that Catholicism has left in the psyche of many of us Laundresses.

    Sex was socially/culturally stifled during my formative years, but this was very much the norm of the Victorian Era. For us Convent Girls we were served a double whammy! many of us had been sexually abused in some way or another already and, any normal development into young women with desire was castrated psychologically by the Nun's and their insistence of us being sinful little horrors! Catholicism and all it's grandeur BS about purity and virginity was the icing on the cake for me........... it distorted my sexuality and femininity even more
    @ a crucial hormonal age. In fact I had one or two periods before I entered the Convent at 13 and never menstruated again for many years. Biology is an amazing thing and can be cut off by psychological trauma.
    ............................................
    Anyway, one of the Nuns, Mother Damian, ended up leaving the convent for a man! I remember she was always a bit of a rebel, young, pretty and she would have her hair poking out from her Vail to Mother Superiors obvious disdain. I got a giggle out of that and, so did Mother Damian. It was all hushed up but it was the local goss -one minute she was there and next poooof she was gone!- I used to fantasize that she was off with her boyfriend having wild sex! even tho I had no idea what that really was.... wild sex that is.... I was just happy for her breaking out of the system.

    Sex or anything close to it was NEVER mentioned. Our bodies were sacred working, praying machines.

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  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPfU5lpMfhA

    Today I saw a movie. Today I saw a brave woman being authentic. Something I have never been when it comes to my past life. It has always been a dark horrid secret....... not anymore.....thank you Rachael

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  3. i too am a victim of the good shepherd copnvent i worked in those laundries from the age of 11 years until i was 17 in durban and also orchards johannesburg i find nothing on the south africa laundries which were just as horrific ann moore

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  4. WELCOME Ann, 6 years, I would love to hear more of your stories. Much love

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  5. Yes i do have a storey to tell My storey has real facts and what i endured before and during and after i left the convent. II have been writing for a while now but on the South African laundries and Good shepherd Convent no one seems to exist only ireland canada uk and australia and really we suffered just as much my real name is not Anne it is Noleen --- Noleen Moore Bardwell. Anne was my convent name

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  6. Dear Noleen, here is something I found which may give you some starting point in S. Africa? Let me know how you are getting on?
    Love

    The Story of CGS in South Africa 2006
    by Sr. Annette St.-Amour
    Durban Diocesan Catechetical Coordinator

    South Africa

    Mailing Address:

    Sr Annette St-Amour
    Archdiocese of Durban
    PO Box 47489
    Greyville 4023
    South Africa

    Archdiocese of Durban
    PO Box 47489
    Greyville 4023
    South Africa

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  7. Talk about Irony....... John Martin's Xmas Pageant for the kiddies....... I wonder if Mr. Martin knew what was going on on his sprawling property - which he sold to the Catholic Church? Which the Catholic Church built one of the infamous laundries, we are talking 20th Century here too... now that is chilling. Poor old Johny would probably roll over in his grave to know that his calm, serene, opulent and prosperous property turned into a house of ill repute pre-adolescent and adolescent girls... No Xrissy Pageant for us immoral creatures! Anyone know the wages for laundresses - underage laundresses in the 60;s. I know equal pay came into pay during that era........ the Irony of it all, The Convent, outwardly appearing as a gentle home for us terrible wayward girls; professed; pretended: an ostensible cheerfulness concealing a traumatic sadness.

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