In 1765, Lady Arabella Denny founded the first Magdalen Asylum in Ireland, for Protestant ‘fallen women and penitent prostitutes’ in Lower Leeson Street in Dublin. A year previous to this she had been awarded the Freedom of the City of Dublin in recognition of her work with the poor – in a textile-history-twist she had been instrumental in working with the Dublin Society to introduce lace-making to workhouse inmates.
Despite the initial intentions of rehabilitation, the asylums (also known as laundries in Ireland) quickly turned into places that were far more like prisons. In 1809, the first Catholic asylum was opened in Cork, and in 1829 the whole Magdalen movement in Ireland was taken over by the Catholic Church. Conditions, which lasted right up until the closure of the last asylum in Waterford in 1996, were horrendous. Most days were spent in silence, except for enforced prayer. Hard physical labour, without pay, was compulsory. Physical, psychological, emotional, and sexual abuse were all experienced within the walls.
Still researching nineteenth-century cotton socks, I found this. It’s a list of what was required for the clothing maintenance of penitents in the Magdalen Asylum, Donnybrook, Dublin, in 1840. The original is in a manuscript in the Murray Papers, File 31/9/30 1841-2 (DDA).
One stiff gown for Sunday and Holy days with suitable caps and handkerchiefs to compound.
Two blue working wrappers.
Two blue serge petticoats.
Two linen chemise.
Two neck handkerchiefs.
One pocket handkerchief.
One large shawl.
One pair woollen and pair cotton stocking.
Two pair shoes.
Two fine linen caps.