A pretty face can be a curse, making it more difficult for a woman to be taken seriously. Particularly by other women.
There was a time in Ireland when a pretty face could get a woman locked away for life.
But you won't get that fact if you read today's article in the New York Times about Enda Kenny's apology to the forgotten Maggies. According to the newspaper, women in Ireland were put away in laundries run by the nuns and made to slave for no wages. What did they do wrong? According to the article:
"Many of the women were consigned to the laundries for petty criminal convictions. Some were the victims of abusive family relationships, and many had mental health problems."
True, in part. But the bigger crime was the incarceration of women who were deemed too attractive to men by their parish priest.There is a well known case in which a woman was tricked into leaving her family farm, where she lived with her brothers, only to find herself in a laundry. If not for the persistence of another family member, she would have died in the laundry. She never knew why she had been put away. She could never have imagined that the priest thought she would tempt her brothers into incest, and so she had to be locked up.
There were many girls in the laundries who were the offspring of women put there because they were pregnant and unmarried. They were the ones who were not adopted, who survived a wretched childhood in an industrial school and then were moved to a laundry, so thoroughly institutionalized that they could never survive in the outside world.
THE LEAVEN OF THE PHARISEES is a novel that presents such cases as fiction, but the book is based on the words of survivors of the laundries and the industrial schools.
You can accept the cleaned-up version presented by the New York Times, or you can dig a little deeper and discover that the collusion between the Church and the State, combined with the power of those who think they know best, is a dangerous force. And the victims are always the weakest among us.