Rising from the ashes – from Ireland to Iran


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Rising from the ashes – from Ireland to Iran Rising from the ashes – from Ireland to Iran

As I witnessed the lived history of women in my own country, Iran, stifled by oppression and censorship, a distant feminine voice resonated, shifting my perspective entirely.

That voice belonged to Patricia Burke Brogan, whose play Eclipsed echoed the anguish of my womanhood. By crafting a play inspired by her own experiences as a supervising nun in a Magdalen laundry, she brought to light the harrowing reality of oppression and gender discrimination imposed on Irish women for centuries.

During my comparative literature research aimed at exploring the intersection of gender oppression and literary expression, I had the privilege of encountering the works of Burke Brogan. Delving into her play, I was gradually introduced to a compelling narrative, depicting the historical gender oppression endured by Irish women. This encounter ignited a desire to delve deeper into the rich tapestry of their experiences and shed light on their untold stories.

The more I researched about the Magdalen laundries, the more I realised they depicted the situation of women in my country. Women who were oppressed, subjugated and labelled sinful or shameful, solely because of their gender, were trapped in the ideological prison of a patriarchal power system.

But Patricia Burke Brogan shows us this is not the end of the world; there are voices capable of shattering these gendered confines, offering hope for the liberation of future generations.

In the first act of Eclipsed, the play plunges us into the stark reality of the Magdalen laundry, where the voices of captive women echo alongside that of their supervisor Mother Victoria. These voices intertwine, painting a vivid picture of the oppressive atmosphere within the walls of the laundry, as can be seen in the following examples:

Voice of Brigit: Keys, Sister! My John-Joe is getting married next week! He doesn’t know about our baby! . . .Keys! My baby, Rosa! I have to find my baby!

Voice of Mandy: It’s Cathy! She’s chokin’, sister!

Voice of Nellie Nora: A kettle! Steam! Hurry, sister! Hurry!

Voice of Mother Victoria: ‘Mandy thought she could leave if she wasn’t pregnant, so she performed an abortion on herself! . . .  We give them food, shelter, and clothing. We look after their spiritual needs. No one else wants them! No one else wants them!’

Pictured: Patricia Burke Brogan, who died in 2022, pictured with her poem, Make Visable the Tree, which was unveiled at the Memorial to The Magdalen Women at Forster Street on February 5, 2013. PHOTO: JOE O’SHAUGHNESSY.

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