Why this story matters:
In the Netherlands between 1860 and 1973, 15,000 young women and girls were forced to work at the Catholic order Sisters of the Good Shepherd, a Christian organization that had homes all across Europe, Canada and Australia.
Prostitutes, unmarried mothers, orphans, disabled women and young women convicted for petty crimes were often among those put into the homes against their will by parents, child protection organizations and even the government.
Reports of sexual abuse, dire working conditions and lack of access to education and healthcare meant that these women suffered lifelong traumas.
The most widely-reported case of this abuse was from the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland.
However, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd have defended themselves, stating that they apologized to the women last year but that financial compensation for unpaid work was "time-barred."
Sadly, this is another case of justice being lost because awareness came too late. As usual, like other marginalized social groups, women are pushed to the sidelines of history.
Details from the story:
- What they disguised as “work therapy” was actually unpaid labor with clients such as hospitals, hotels, church and government.
- Women and girls lost their freedom; they were given new names, forced to work every day except Sunday and forbidden to speak while at work. “Rebellious” girls were kept quiet with medicine.
- If the investigation goes ahead it will be the first time that a Good Shepherd case is investigated in the Netherlands.
- Last year, the sisters issued an official apology to the women. However they argued that the cases were “time-barred” and that they wouldn’t be financially compensated.