The best books about Irish Industrial Schools and Mother Baby Homes

The Books I Picked & Why

The Light in the Window

By June Goulding

Book cover of The Light in the Window

Why this book?

The Light in the Window was recommended to me by a woman born in a Mother Baby Home, and it is the book that ignited my curiosity about these institutions. The author, June Goulding a midwife, gives a firsthand account of what happened in the Mother Baby Home where she spent a year working as a midwife. Goulding shares her experience and the cruelty she witnessed. The Light in the Window is one of those books that is difficult to put down. When you’re done reading it, you can’t help but shake your head and wonder how this was allowed to happen. 


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Fear of the Collar: The True Story of the Boy They Couldn't Break

By Patrick Touher

Book cover of Fear of the Collar: The True Story of the Boy They Couldn't Break

Why this book?

Fear of the Collar is Patrick Touher’s personal account of his experience in the Artane Industrial School. Artane was the largest Industrial School in Ireland and operated from 1870 – 1969.

At times Artane housed nearly 1,000 boys and was known to be self-sufficient – with the “inmates” making their own clothes, shoes, and the boys produced and grew their own food.

Touher takes the reader through the daily military-like regiment and discipline imposed upon young boys being cared for by the Christian Brothers. His story will evoke an array of feelings. It is important to read the epilogue as you will be in awe of the man Patrick Touher has become despite the harshness of his childhood.


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For the Love of My Mother

By John Rodgers

Book cover of For the Love of My Mother

Why this book?

John Rodgers tells the story of his mother’s experience in three Irish institutions, including an industrial school, a Mother Baby Home, and a Magdalene Laundry. Bridie Rodgers’ story reveals the psychological and emotional burdens of an inmate and how they are also felt by their future generations. It is a devastating reality to learn of the many innocent children and women who had been isolated from society and powerless over their own lives. 


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Belonging: A Memoir

By Catherine Corless

Book cover of Belonging: A Memoir

Why this book?

In her book Belonging: A Memoir of Place, along with her personal journey, Corless shares her research and activism work towards justice for the lost babies of the Tuam Mother Baby Home. Her book is an excellent resource to learn about the institutions where unmarried mothers paid their penance and gave birth to their “illegitimate” children. Her book includes heart-wrenching accounts from former residents. 

I’ve had several exchanges with Catherine since 2010 when she responded to a query I had posted regarding the Tuam Mother Baby Home. Catherine Corless has brought worldwide attention to a scandal she uncovered: 796 missing burial records of children born in the Tuam Mother Baby Home.


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Precarious Childhood in Post-Independence Ireland

By Moira J. Maguire

Book cover of Precarious Childhood in Post-Independence Ireland

Why this book?

Moira J. Maguire has written a book that could be used by academics yet still fascinates a curious reader. Precarious Childhood in Post-Independence Ireland gives a full view of the system implemented to care for needy children. The study examines the roles of religion and state involved in providing services. Maguire references documents and quotes from reports to give the reader an authentic view of how destitute, abused, and illegitimate children were cared for. 


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