Magdalene laundries are in the news now because of a report.
Ireland has officially recognised the state's guilt in the "enslavement" of more than 30,000 women, most of whom were sent against their will into church-run institutions where they received no pay, no pension and no social protection.
Labelled the "Maggies", the women were sent to the Magdalene laundries where they worked for nothing, serving in some cases "life sentences" simply for being unmarried mothers or regarded as morally wayward.
Dig this bit.
The inquiry into the Magdalene scandal was finally prompted by a report from the UN committee against torture in June 2011. It called for prosecutions where necessary and compensation to surviving women.Torture.
Just now, I learned that the racket was imported to the US.
(Here is Jerome Elam's website.)
And then I remembered.
Like most 14-year-olds, I was a handful. I wasn't quite (yet) into drugs and sex but I was getting into trouble in school, mouthing off, skipping out, hanging with friends. I bleached my hair, experimented with makeup. Nothing particularly outrageous.
But Maman, divorced since I was seven, had a new boyfriend. I didn't like him and he didn't like me.
So a plot was hatched. Boyfriend did the research -- I found the list in his handwriting years later -- on 'tough' Catholic boarding schools.
A shortlist of the toughest emerged and appointments were made. My presence was required.
We weren't Catholic, by the way.
I was shocked. My friends were shocked. A counter-plan was hatched.
A friend lent me a 'motorcycle' jacket. (Motorcycles were considered agents of Satan.) Scripts were written and rehearsed.
On the evening we were to drive to the first place (I've repressed the name; it was near Hamilton, Ontario), I rolled the waistband of my already-too-short skirt, slathered on makeup, and donned the jacket. My mother told me to wash my face and change my clothes. I told her that if she were going to force me into this, I was doing it my way. Huge fight, but I stuck to my guns and won that round.
Silence in the car.
We were taken to Head Nun's office. Short meeting with Maman, boyfriend, and me, then they were asked to leave. Head Nun wanted to talk to me alone.
Truth to tell, I was scared shitless, but I put on the performance of my life. Alternately truculent and foul-mouthed, I tried to be the baddest-ass girl of all time.
I told her that I was smart -- she had school records so she knew that -- and that I would use every single IQ point I had to make her life an unholy hell.
There was more of course and I probably wasn't nearly as bad-ass as I thought, but when adults were summoned back, she said she didn't think that Name of School could do anything with me.
She declined my challenge.
Silence in the car going home.
But there was still The List.
It took me a few days to realize that the Remove Fern Hill from the Family Home Project had been quietly abandoned.
And today, I'm wondering exactly what kind of unholy hell I had averted.
As a sad bonus, read what Sinéad O'Connor has to say. It explains much.
ADDED: I've always loved Sinéad O'Connor.
Singer Sinead O'Connor has said she has been excommunicated by the Catholic Church and said she wanted a certificate from the Vatican to prove it.
"Apparently I've been excommunicated but the only place you'll find this is in L'Osservatore Romano, their newspaper which nobody reads," she told the Sunday Independent.
"But I want something to show my grandkids. I've been tweeting Pope Benedict about this but I've heard nothing back yet."