• Joan, daughter born 1965 | Sacred Heart Picture in Joans house

  • Anne, Gerry born 1978 | Annes tattoo, Gerrys tattoo reads ‘They tried to Bury us’

  • Christina, Adam born 1980 | Grotto at Sean Ross Abbey Mother and Baby Home

  • Anne (my mother), Alain born 1975 | Site where St Patricks Mother and Baby home stood, where Alain was born

  • Kathleen, son Brian born 1967

  • Birth mothers photos: Kathleen’s son Brian, Christina’s son Adam, Kathleen and Brian

  • Letter from birth mother to adoption worker

  • Sean Ross Abbey mother-and-baby home

  • St Patricks mother-and-baby home, Dublin, 1960

  • Mothers and babies at St Patricks mother-and-baby home, Dublin, Photos taken by Margaret Maloney 1960- 1967

  • Mothers and babies at St Patricks mother-and-baby home, Dublin, Photos taken by Margaret Maloney 1960- 1967

“Single mothers are fallen women and grave sinners, whose children are the product of wickedness”

– Father Cecil Beaton, Head of the Catholic Social Welfare Bureau, 1952

The severe and judgmental attitudes towards women who became pregnant outside of marriage permeated the ethos of virtually all Church and State agencies in 20th century Ireland. Soon after the establishment of an Irish Free State in 1922, “Mother and Baby Homes” began appearing to house and hide unwed pregnant women and facilitate the adoption of their children into ‘proper’, Catholic marital homes. Church and State were bound in their conceptualisation of unmarried motherhood as degenerate and sinful. The tragic outcome of this is that generations of mothers and babies were forced apart.

As an unmarried mother at the age of 21 in the Ireland of 2002, I had the choice to keep my daughter. But in 1975, for my mother, then aged 20, there was no choice and she was forced to give her son up for adoption shortly after his birth. A similar story can be told of two more of my aunts, one as recently as 1985. Stirred by the secrecy and concealment of these events within my family, and inspired by an emerging familial and societal consciousness of the experiences of unmarried mothers and their children, this project seeks to recognise, respect, listen to and hear from those women our society so entirely failed.

My ambition for the project is to highlight the position and experiences of birth mothers within this emerging social dialogue. The primary engagement with the women is through recorded interviews, supplemented with portrait photographs of the birth mother and documentation of any photos/materials they bring with them. This project facilitates birth mothers in reclaiming their memories and dealing with past events by means of modern photographic documentation and archival practices.