Monday, October 9, 2017

Magdalen Hospital for the Reception of Penitent Prostitutes

The Magdalen Hospital from The Picture of London for 1829 
I find this a difficult blog to write, as the mere creation and existence of the Magdalene Asylums upsets me. The double standard of the Regency and Victorian eras is illustrated so plainly by the Magdalene hospitals. Women were viewed as weak, aberrant and sinful. They needed warehousing and punishment. Men were just doing what men do, without consequences or reproach; they had no part in the 'downfall' of these women.

Nevertheless the Magdalen asylums were an important aspect of Regency life, and so were the attitudes and hypocrisy that supported them. The 'good people' of the Regency era believed they were doing 'good work'. It is an important thing for those reading and writing about the Regency in England to remember.

Perthshire Courier - Monday 20 November 1809
The first Magdalen institution had been opened in London in 1758.
London Courier and Evening Gazette - Monday 15 September 1817

By the time of the Regency, the Magdalen was well-established in society's charitable planning.
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser - Thursday 20 July 1809
London Courier and Evening Gazette - Monday 18 April 1814
The one saving grace of the Magdalen hospitals is that they did provide re-training for young women, and a certain amount of protection from the streets for a period of time. This led at least one young woman (under what is surely an assumed name) to publication and sermonising on her fate and future.

Globe - Friday 22 April 1808
From the beginning the Chapel of the Magdalen Hospital provided a platform for preaching and moralizing by notable church figures.
Evening Mail - Wednesday 26 March 1806
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser - Monday 17 May 1819

Salisbury and Winchester Journal - Monday 01 August 1803
None of the newspaper articles that I have found have mentioned that tours of the facility were given as a means of raising money from the more privileged classes. Apparently this was a popular pastime among the upper classes. But one notable visitor was mentioned in the press.
London Courier and Evening Gazette - Thursday 14 April 1814
Unfortunately for the virtuous and righteous gentlemen of the Magdalen Hospital Committee, human nature kept asserting itself. But of course it was the women who were blamed:
Morning Advertiser - Saturday 06 March 1819
One wonders why there is the discrepancy between the date of the letter and its publication. And I wonder if the problem was ever resolved.

In later Victorian times, the some of the Magdalen hospitals apparently devolved into harsh penitentiary-like establishments. Certainly they did not solve the issue of prostitution. And we have not solved it to this day. Food for thought indeed....

'Til next time,


P. S. I am including the following long newspaper article for those who are interested in pursuing the Magdalen Hospital information further. It is from the Morning Post of Thursday, 16 May 1811.


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