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Joni Mitchell – Magdalene Laundries lyrics

I was an unmarried girl
I'd just turned twenty-seven
When they sent me to the sisters
For the way men looked at me
Branded as a jezebel
I knew I was not bound for Heaven
I'd be cast in shame
Into the Magdalene laundries

Most girls come here pregnant
Some by their own fathers
Bridget got that belly
By her parish priest
We're trying to get things white as snow
All of us woe-begotten-daughters
In the steaming stains
Of the Magdalene laundries

Prostitutes and destitutes
And temptresses like me--
Fallen women--
Sentenced into dreamless drudgery...
Why do they call this heartless place
Our Lady of Charity?
Oh charity!

These bloodless brides of Jesus
If they had just once glimpsed their groom
Then they'd know, and they'd drop the stones
Concealed behind their rosaries
They wilt the grass they walk upon
They leech the light out of a room
They'd like to drive us down the drain
At the Magdalene laundries

Peg O'Connell died today
She was a cheeky girl
A flirt
They just stuffed her in a hole!
Surely to God you'd think at least some bells should ring!
One day I'm going to die here too
And they'll plant me in the dirt
Like some lame bulb
That never blooms come any spring
Not any spring
No, not any spring
Not any spring

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  • u
    This song has always represented, to me, what a lot of Catholic women (and other old fashioned religions) have pressed upon women. They are all told that they are never going to be good enough unless they are always "pure". They are told that they have to be someone who their husband will want to be with their whole lives. They are not given the option of telling their spouse that they don't want to do something. They have to obey their every word because if they don't, well, it's their fault if they get punished, isn't it? This song is also talking about how these women end up in "purgatory" dealing with their supposed sins because they were assaulted, a flirt, a "homewrecker" or some other thing that is a "sin". This song tells others that we need to look at the expectations of women as not something that will never measure up but is something that is better than what it has been.
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  • s
    So very sad and based on the truth.
    The Magdalene Sisters did run laundries where they worked the young women, often to death, buried in unmarked mass graves.
    This amazing song is based on the painful lives of thousands of women committed to these "work prisons."
    They had no judge, no jury that heard their story. Very little was needed to commit them. Many were brought there by angry family members, many more, kidnapped from where they worked in bars, brothels, or dance halls.
    A parish priest could point that finger, as could almost any man, to "get rid of a woman" for his own selfish reasons.

    These "asylums" were mostly brutal, a commitment with no oversight except by nuns who ran them for a profit!
    Washing laundry for hospitals and other institutions, for long hours every day, the inmates were paid nothing. Just used.
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