The deceitful tale it told itself of a kindly and compassionate social order

Meet Mari Steed.

Mari Steed was two-years-old when she was adopted from Ireland by a family from Flourtown, PA. Years later, her search for her birth mother turned up the Magdalene Laundries’ terrifying legacy, and Steed is widely credited for her campaign for justice and the Irish Government’s apology to the Magdalene survivors.

Mari is the daughter of a Magdalene survivor. She was taken from her mother and sent for adoption in America at eighteen months old.

She might never have gone looking for the woman who relinquished her had fate not brought her a great empathy for her mother’s experience. In her senior year of high school, Steed became pregnant by her boyfriend. Her parents sent her to St. Vincent’s, a home in Upper Darby for unwed mot­hers. On rare visits home to Flourtown, young Mari was kept indoors, lest her growing bump may attract neighborhood gossip.

Mari was reunited with her birth mother, who is now known as Josephine Bassett, through her campaign with Justice for Madeline Survivors. Josephine was one of the thousands of women who worked for years in the Magdalene laundries system before the last one closed in 1996. Her mother’s life, Steed told The Irish Voice in 2013, is a “kind of testament to the shadow side of Ireland and the deceitful tale it told itself of a kindly and compassionate social order.”

Cognitive dissonance on a national scale, that.

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