From Barcelona, Mike tell us:
This is part of a written paper written by Rob Fairmichael for the War Resisters International Triennial Conference, Dublin, August 2002 on 'Stories and strategies - non-violent resistance and social change'. It includes many Irish musicians and a description of the socio-political setting of the songs. There's a link to the full listing at end of mail. It's worth a read, I think.
14. Joni Mitchell and the Chieftains - The Magdalene Laundries
During the mid-nineteenth century Ireland became a more conservative place in many ways, including regarding sexual behaviour. In 1966 Oliver J Flanagan, a member of the Dáil (parliament in Dublin) could say "Sex never came to Ireland until Teilifís Éireann* went on the air" (*the state television broadcasting agency, now RTÉ) - an obviously ludicrous comment but one which he felt he could state at the time. Severe penalties - including ostracism and social rejection - could be meted out to people, particularly women, who did not meet a very conservative sexual moral code. Women pregnant out of marriage, and others, could be sent to an institution like the Magdalene Laundries. The mistreatment of many women in such institutions, and of children sent to institutions by the state, has been a shocking discovery within the last decade or two.
This song tells of some of the women in 'the Magdalene Laundry'. It's from the Chieftains' 'Tears of Stone' album and sung by North American singer Joni Mitchell.
(Contributed by Mike Pritchard)