Monday, July 31, 2017

The Stain of the Magdalene Laundries

In the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, an unknown number of Irish women were effectively imprisoned by the Catholic church in the Magdalene Laundries for their supposed crimes of social and moral deviancy. Magdalene laundries also operated in America, Australia, Canada, and England, though the Irish laundries have generated the most notoriety. Coming from all classes of society, these "fallen women" were required to wash and iron for their room and board in penitence for their nonconformance. Many inmates of the laundries were unwed mothers disowned by their families. Other undesirables included lesbians, orphans, victims of assault, the mentally ill, and some of the state's most poor and vulnerable citizens having no one to vouch for them.

Over time, free labor in the laundries incentivized the facilities' expansion and use by the state. Instead of the church's early promise to rehabilitate women, their mission shifted to one of long-term incarceration, backed by police, the courts, and health and social services. 

Some believe that it was the widespread adoption of the washing machine, as much as shifting societal norms, that contributed to the eventual closing of the laundries. Only after the discovery of a mass grave at one of the sites in 1993 did public outrage bring about the last laundry closure in 1996. Today, much of what is known about these facilities comes from the stories of individual survivors. A U.N. committee against torture continues to press the Irish government for a full investigation into the abuse these women experienced.

Some articles to read: 

Airswimming: Meet the Cast

Meet the two women who will be bringing the semi-true story of Airswimming to life this August: 

Katie Anderson (Persephone/Porph) Katie Anderson is so excited to be back at Dragon Theatre again! It's been 6 years since she's been onstage, and she hopes she remembers how to do it! She took a break from theatre to get her master's degree in education and currently teaches kindergarten at Eaton Elementary in Cupertino. In her most recent show, she played Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire at Dragon Theatre with Meredith Hagedorn as Blanche. Years ago, she had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Annamarie MacLeod in And Baby Makes Seven with Theatre Q. It’s been a dream come true reuniting with these wonderful women! At the Dragon, she’s played the Governess in The Turn of the Screw, Soos in The Country Club, and Rosie in Humble Boy (also by Charlotte Jones.) She’s worked at the Pear Theatre as Harper in Angels in America, Emily in Our Town, and Sorel in Hay Fever. At City Lights Theatre, she played Poppy in Noises Off, Georgie in The Full Monty, and Emily Cratchit in A Christmas Twist. She would like to dedicate this show to Shirley Soignet, her grandmother, who fought fearlessly through issues of mental health before modern treatment was available. 

Annamarie MacLeod (Dora/Dorph) is delighted to be back with Dragon Productions, having performed with them in Chekov in Yalta - her Bay Area debut! Regional credits include the Arabian Shakespeare Festival, with which she is an Artistic Associate (Jihad Jones and the Kalashnikov Babes, Othello); the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival (Henry V); Pacific Repertory Theatre (Much Ado About Nothing); the New Conservatory Theatre Center (Tennessee in the Summer; Regrets Only); the Pear Ave Theatre (Northanger Abbey; The Way of the World); and theatre Q (And Baby Makes 7) in which she first enjoyed performing with Ms. Anderson. Ms. MacLeod trained in NYC at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and in London at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She is a proud member of Theatre Bay Area.