Last week, I spoke with Julia Wright at the CBC about my limited research into the House of the Good Shepherd in Saint John — you might recall that, last July, I randomly found a city council ordinance from 1936, authorizing an investigation into the “false arrest of Mary Boyd by City Police.” My partner and I had been unable to find the building when we searched for it.
This is not an active research area for me but rather information that seemed important to share when I first came across it last year. I was also curious about a statement made by or on behalf of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd during a legal proceeding in 1996 — that “the Records of the Home were destroyed many years ago.”
As noted in the CBC interview, Rie Croll wrote the book on this institution, as well as the more general history of the Magdalene laundries in North America. Her research on the House of the Good Shepherd centres around interviews she conducted with a woman, now deceased, who was born in the laundry to an incarcerated teen mother and escaped when she was 18. There were plans to bring Dr. Croll to Saint John before COVID-19, and it would be great to resume that planning so that we could perhaps find out what others in the city remember about this institution.
Because there are still memories of this history in southern New Brunswick. After chatting with Julia, I heard from a retired canon lawyer, and I met with him for a few hours on Monday. He spoke about visiting the House of the Good Shepherd as as a child and provided contexts for some of the secrecy surrounding the institution. He explained, for example, that women and girls placed in the laundry often wouldn’t know the length of their “sentences” — and that their names would sometimes be changed to frustrate family searches. If possible, he would like to assist anyone who picks up this research, and if this describes you, I’d be happy to make the introduction.
On Friday night, Mike Landry, a court reporter at the Telegraph Journal, also released an extensive and revelatory investigative piece that he worked on with researchers from the New Brunswick Museum.