I've read about the opinions of people regarding the Good Shepherd Home in the OLL area. It was, in fact, like something out of Dickens. Superficially, it looked very nice unless someone took the time or the interest to really look at it. It was mostly the home of those young women who weren't really wanted. There were no legal protections, no one to go to with a complaint about bad treatment or lack of anything. Who cared? If you were in there you might never leave -- and some never did. While in that place, there was total deprivation of any knowledge of what went on in the larger world or even in one's former neighborhood; no newspapers at all, no current periodicals; no newscasts on tv or radio, etc. One had a bed with one thin blanket in the winter in a 100-person dorm; no soap, no toothpaste, no underwear -- unless you asked someone (if you had someone) to bring these things. If you got out, it might've been impossible to function in society since one really didn't know what happened at all during the time one was there. No, the young women were not beaten (as shown in the Magdalene movie) but they probably didn't have feelings of self worth to begin with before entering and felt worse about themselves after leaving (if they got out) with no plan for the future, no way to support one's self. It was a workhouse without any compensation at all for the ladies doing the work (some of which was for outside vendors), the food was inadequate in nutrition and amount allotted; the school was a very-nice looking sham (nothing of any educational importance was taught) It was important to justify the treatment of those institutionalized by saying they were "wayward" or whatever so they wouldn't feel they were deserving of anything. Visitors were allowed only once a month (for one hour per visitor or 2 visitors). One could write only 2 letters per month to people "approved" by the nun in charge and the letters were read first by that nun before going out. Any incoming mail was also screened as well as any gift a person might send and sometimes one didn't know if someone had sent something; of course, if something sent was not received and the sender didn't even get an acknowledgement, the sender might assume the intended recipient didn't care; not all letters or gifts were received. It is my understanding that in the Good Shepherd houses now, each young lady has her own room and gets a minor allowance each week to buy necessities, and psychological services are available. That's all I'm going to say.
There are one thousand newspaper articles in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle archives on The House of Good Shepherd available online for those that are willing to take the time to do the research. The House of Good Shepherd was a publicly funded sectarian alternative to secular reform school or prison. The women and girls were sentenced by secular magistrates to terms that could be from six months or until the girls reached majority. It took little more than a parent's or husband's say so that the offending woman (or girl) was lazy or prone to alcohol to have her committed (sentenced). The truth is there in the historical record if you take the time to look it up.
Wasn't able to access that Brooklyn Eagle site you put in. Have to try again. I did forget to mention that, although those Good Shepherd Homes have changed in the U.S. (probably because, legally, they couldn't get away with that any more), they are still operating in 3rd-world countries. I know the nuns go to churches here in the U.S. selling (for high prices) goods made by the ladies in those countries who live in the Good Shepherd Homes and one nun, when asked if the girls got paid answered "yes. they get union wages" (they have unions in 3rd world countries?). I always like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and I could be wrong but, in this case, I doubt it. The nuns say they are saving girls who were prostitues or who were in danger of becoming prostitues. I do know that here in the U.S. a parent, or parents, could go to the court and say the daughter was in danger of falling and, sometimes, they didn't even have to go to court; they just didn't want the child or couldn't take care of the child.
I also remember the Good Shepherd, just as a passerby. I am curious as to how much you know about it. Did you visit? or know someone who was there. It pained me, as a social worker, to read your account. I had no idea it was so horrible. My mother used to tell me that the nuns there took care of girls who had no home. And of course the name, Good Shepherd, makes it sound so kind and charitable. What a shame that these young ladies had no one to advocate for them. And how sad that the community, at large, was not aware of the inner workings of the place. It now, as I recall, was cloaked in secrecy with pieces of glass wrapped around the barbed wire fences-almost like prison.
Since I lived directly across the street on Atlantic Ave and no one ever told me, as young boy, exactly why these young women were sentenced to that institution, I have been very interested in these posts. I took a quick look at the archives of the Brooklyn Eagle and immediately found several articles where civil judges sentenced the girls upon complaints of their parents that they consorted with the wrong crowd or stayed out late. Aside from violations of due process, it is amazing that civil judges routinely sentenced these girls to a religious institution. Sounds quite medieval.
Read what I wrote above, go to the Brooklyn Eagle website Gary posted. Even though the Eagle stories are only up to 1902, the place and others like it were exactly the same until they changed or closed in the U.S. (maybe about the 1960's). If you go to The East New York Project site by Brian Merlis, Zone 1, Good Shepherd you will see a story from a person who did live in that Good Shepherd Home in Brooklyn for a few months (although not as an inmate); she describes it as "scary" and she was right to be scared because, but for the grace of God (and a good priest), she might've become an inmate. Two important things here are: (1) Don't take anyone's word for anything unless you check the facts yourself and (2) Injustice will always exist in one form or another at all times and it's up to those who are not being treated unfairly to try and right things (if at all possible and/or the opportunity presents itself).
Laurie....................will we ever know your last name.............I gave my side of the story, I knew someone who worked there, visited them and the Sisters showed nothing but compassion for the women who lived there, end of story..............
I was told it was a home for unmarried pregnant girls.
Jan 28, 2013 - 3:58PM
Re: good shepherd home
Thanks for that link, Gary. I was just reading some of the news from there. Very interesting. I saw where one 40 year old woman was arrested for neglecting her children and in the court was sentenced to the house of good shepherd for 6 months. From what I have been reading, I gather it was a womens' prison.