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Magdalene Sisters

A movie highlights some hidden women's history.

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The 2003 film The Magdalene Sisters documents the incarceration of some young Irish women in the Magdalene Asylums of the 1960s and 1970s. The Magdalene women were sent to these Roman Catholic institutions for various moral transgressions -- from pregnancy to loose behavior -- and served as, essentially, slave labor in laundries and other services.

Some reviews and news stories on the film about this episode in Irish women's history (note that links in news sources tend to become obsolete fairly quickly):

• Roger Ebert's review - 3 1/2 stars

Modern women trapped by medieval system - review by David Sterritt in the Christian Science Monitor - "'The Magdalene Sisters' is a pungent, powerful film that points an accusing finger not at religious beliefs but at flawed human institutions. It also targets social and cultural mores that are almost medieval in their patriarchal bias against girls and women."

• Nuns' order apologizes for abusive conditions of workers - Chris Kaltenbach of the Baltimore Sun via Detroit News - "In a statement issued from their Silver Spring, Md., headquarters, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, with 5,000 members around the world, said the laundries represent 'a time in the history of the Catholic Church and religious orders of which we are not proud.'"

• My Horrible Laundrette - review in Slate by David Edelstein - "In The Magdalene Sisters, Irish girls get sentenced to torture and dry cleaning."

• Magdalene Laundries washes out ugly history - Katherine Monk, Vancouver Sun - "Safe havens for 'fallen women' were little more than slave labour camps."

How Ireland Hid Its Own Dirty Laundry - Mary Gordon in the New York Times

• Review: 'Magdalene Sisers' preachy - review by Ben Nuckols, CNN/AP - "Don't expect a nuanced argument out of Peter Mullan's 'The Magdalene Sisters,' a preachy message movie that has the tone of a long, monotonous bleat."

• The Magdalene Sisters - Liam Lacey in The Globe and Mail - "Director Peter Mullan shows no mercy in this exposé of Ireland's church-run prisons for so-called wayward girls."

• At the church's mercy - review by Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

• The Magdalene Sisters - review: "What Midnight Express did for Turkish prisons, The Magdalene Sisters does for the Irish laundries."

• 'Sisters' blisters nunnery, but not faith - review by Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger

• New film resurrects charges of anti-Catholic bias in Hollywood - by Angela Aleiss, Religion News Service and Salt Lake Tribune - "Controversial religious themes in movies are nothing new. Since the relaxed censorship rules of the late 1960s, Hollywood has been freely carping at religion, especially the Catholic Church and its institutional dogma."

• The Magdalene Sisters - review by Gerri Pare and David DiCerto, Catholic News Service - "The severe living conditions in Catholic Church-run laundries in 1964 Ireland are sensationalized to the point of caricature..."

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