Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries focus of King Chair Lecture at UMaine

Restorative justice for the survivors of Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries will be the focus of a March 7 lecture by author James M. Smith at the University of Maine.

His free public lecture, “Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries, Academic Advocacy and Restorative Justice,” at 7 p.m. in Minsky Recital Hall is part of the Stephen E. King Chair Lecture Series, now in its inaugural year. To request a disability accommodation, call 581.1226.

More information about the King Chair Lecture Series is online.

Smith, an associate professor in the English Department and Irish Studies Program at Boston College, is the author of the award-winning book, “Ireland’s Magdalen Laundries and the Nation’s Architecture of Containment.” He is a member of Justice for Magdalenes Research, the advocacy group that brought these institutions to the attention of the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva.

The Magdalene Laundries operated by Catholic Church religious orders were workhouses in which many Irish women and girls were essentially imprisoned because they were perceived to be a threat to the moral fiber of society. Beginning in the 18th century, the state utilized these institutions until the last laundry closed in 1996.

In 1993, the remains of 155 inmates found in unmarked graves on the property were exhumed, cremated and buried elsewhere in a mass grave.

Smith’s work with archival materials and survivors is, in Irish writer Colum McCann’s words, a “brilliant, art-driven examination of a story, or history, that needs to be told over and over and over again, lest it be forgotten or allowed to seep into the ambient noise.”

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745