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She further asserted that this new definition resulted in even more suffering, "especially among those increasing numbers who were not prostitutes but unmarried mothers – forced to give up their babies as well as their lives".And as this concept of "fallen" expanded, so did the facilities, in both physical size and role in society.Andrea Parrot and Nina Cummings wrote that "The cost of violence, oppression and brutalization of women is enormous" and in their struggle to survive, the inmates suffered not only physically, but spiritually and emotionally.As time went on the asylums became increasingly prison-like.According to historian Frances Finnegan, in the beginning of these asylums' existence, because many of the women had a background as prostitutes, the women (who were called "children") were regarded as "in need of penitence", and until the 1970s were required to address all staff members as "mother" regardless of age.To enforce order and maintain a monastic atmosphere, the inmates were required to observe strict silence for much of the day.Finnegan wrote that based on historical records, the religious institutes had motivations other than simply wanting to curtail prostitution; these multiple motivations led to the multiplication of these facilities.

These particular institutions intentionally shared "overriding characteristics, including a regime of prayer, silence, work in a laundry, and a preference for permanent inmates", which, as Smith notes, "contradicts the religious congregations' stated mission to protect, reform, and rehabilitate".

A formal state apology was issued in 2013, and a £50 million compensation scheme for survivors was set up, to which the Catholic Church has refused to contribute.

The Dublin Magdalen Asylum sometimes called Magdalen Asylum for Penitent Females, in Lower Leeson Street was the first such institution in Ireland.

The issue of continued demand for prostitutes was barely confronted, so absorbed were moralists with the disgraceful and more visible evidence of supply.

And while acknowledging that poverty, overcrowded slum housing and lack of employment opportunities fuelled the activity…they shirked the wider issues, insisting on individual moral (rather than social) reform.They had no social welfare system; therefore many resorted to prostitution or entered these mother and child homes, also known as Magdalen Laundries.