The Magdalene Sisters is a 2002 Irish movie written and directed by Peter Mullan. It's based on true stories about the horrific experiences of women who were banished for life to the Magdalene Laundries for having sex without the benefit of marriage. The Magdalene Laundries were established and run by Roman Catholic nuns throughout Ireland, and they operated for 150 years. It's estimated that 30,000 women were laundry inmates during this time period. They experienced a life of hard labor, total silence, prayer, beatings, cruelty, and humiliations of every kind.
The basic idea, of course, is that unmarried sex is a grievous sin against God that leads to everlasting hell if not atoned. The name of the laundry is derived from the Biblical character, Mary Magdalene, who was thought to have been a prostitute before learning another way to live through her devotion to Jesus. Since Mary Magdalene was a reformed sinner of the worst kind, she is used as a role model for successful redemption. Originally, the laundry's mission was to reform prostitutes. Over time, however, the mission evolved to incorporate all unmarried sexual activity, including abused or developmentally challenged girls who were raped.
Set in the 1960s in County Dublin, The Magdalene Sisters is told from the perspective of Sister Bridgett, the head nun in charge of the laundry, and from three young women who arrive there on the same day: Margaret, Bernadette, and Rose. Margaret was raped by her cousin at a family wedding and was immediately sent to the laundry by her family. Bernadette, an orphan, was sent to the laundry for being beautiful and for flirting with boys. And Rose was sent to the laundry by her parents right after giving birth to an illegitimate baby boy, which was taken from her by a priest.
This is the welcome the three women received at the laundry:
"The philosophy here is very simple," says Sister Bridgett. "Through the power of prayers, cleanliness and hard work, the fallen can find their way back to Jesus Christ, our lord and savior..."
Salvation comes only by paying penance for sins, denying yourself all pleasures of the flesh, including food and sleep, and working beyond human endurance so that you might offer up your soul to redeem yourself and save yourself from eternal damnation.