Growing into Freedom
By Bryan Caplan
Heard of the Magdalene Asylums? Long story short: They were quasi-prisons in Ireland for “wayward” girls and women, run by nuns. To sustain themselves economically, the inmates ran Magdalene Laundries. Check out the movie The Magdalene Sisters; and if you think it’s just anti-Catholic propaganda, think again.
The last Magdalene Asylum closed in 1996. The standard story is that this was a response to changing sexual mores. But some experts give partial credit to economic growth:
Given Ireland’s conservative sexual values, Magdalen Asylums were a generally accepted social institution until well into the second half of the 20th century. They disappeared with the changes in sexual mores – or, as some say, as they ceased to be profitable. “Possibly the advent of the washing machine has been as instrumental in closing these laundries as have changing attitudes,” according to Frances Finnegan.
I doubt that any of the Magdalene inmates thanked God for economic growth when they were finally let out. But perhaps they should have.