From Tuam to Birmingham
A case study of children’s homes in Ireland and the UK
in Legacies of the Magdalen Laundries
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Since 2014, when Catherine Corless’s work on the Tuam Mother and Baby Home gained international attention, Ireland’s ‘mother and baby homes’ have become a national and international scandal. While recent academic, activist, and journalistic work has focused on the overall system that operated in these ‘homes’, and microhistories of particular institutions, this chapter deals with a hitherto underexplored area – comparisons between the operation of homes in Ireland and in the United Kingdom. To do this, it offers a comparative microhistory approach, looking at two institutions – the Tuam Children’s Home in Ireland, and the Father Hudson Homes in Colehill, Birmingham, England.

After an initial history of both institutions, the chapter utilises oral history testimonies and case files extracted from the archival material of British institutions. Particular focus is given to the importance of social class and gender to the operation and experience of the institutions. In the UK, social class and nationality were important in determining the assistance provided to unmarried mothers and their children. The individual cases throughout offer an insight into the realities of unmarried motherhood, adoption, and institutionalisation in Britain and Ireland throughout the twentieth century.

Legacies of the Magdalen Laundries

Commemoration, gender, and the postcolonial carceral state


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