Roman Catholic forced labour for Dutch girls

Boarding school of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd in Leiderdorp in the Netherlands in 1965. Photo: Katholiek Documentatie Centrum

This photo shows a boarding school for girls of the Roman Catholic Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd in Leiderdorp in the Netherlands in 1965.

Wikipedia writes about this religious congregation, also known as the Magdalene Sisters:

The Congregation has a representative at the United Nations, and has spoken out against human trafficking. But they are now accused of child trafficking across Ireland. …

[In Australia] Education for residents was either of poor quality or lacking altogether. … In 2004 the Australian Parliament released a report that included Good Shepherd laundries in Australia for criticism. “We acknowledge” [writes the Australian Province Leader Sister Anne Manning] “that for numbers of women, memories of their time with Good Shepherd are painful. We are deeply sorry for acts of verbal or physical cruelty that occurred: such things should never have taken place in a Good Shepherd facility. The understanding that we have been the cause of suffering is our deep regret as we look back over our history.” …

The Congregation ran institutions which provided residential accommodation for children and adults in Belfast, Derry and Newry in Northern Ireland. These institutions were the subject of the two-week Module 12 of the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry into sexual and physical abuse of children—not taking into account young women over the age of 18, the majority of residents—starting on 7 March 2016.

The inquiry, under Sir Anthony Hart, reported in January 2017. In regard to the Good Shepherd Sisters facilities in Belfast, Derry and Newry, the retired judge said there had been “unacceptable practices” of young girls being forced to do industrial work in the laundries. He recommended compensation of £7,500 and £100,000 per person. An apology on behalf of the Sisters said “we regret that some of our former residents have painful memories of the time spent in our care.”

The Ireland branch of the congregation has been accused of labor abuse, with inmates forced by nuns to perform laborious work in laundries and factory-like setups for pocket-money pay for companies such as Hasbro.

In Dublin in 1993 a mass grave containing over 150 bodies was found on the grounds belonging to the Sisters after it was sold to property developers. The bodies were reburied elsewhere and the scandal caused a reevaluation of the Order’s work.

Protest in Ireland against abuse by the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd

Also in France (see also here and here) and in Belgium there were Good Shepherd Sisters abuse scandals.

This video is a clip from the Franco-Belgian film Les diablesses about the scandal.

And now, the congregation in the Netherlands.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Women demand redress for forced labour in Catholic boarding schools

In over a century – between 1860 and 1973 – at least 15,000 women have done forced labour in Catholic institutions. They were not paid for their work in, for example, laundries and sewing workshops. The NRC daily investigated the abuses and figured out how many girls and women it was.

Abuse survivor Ms Margôt Verhagen, raped at a Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd boarding school, recalls in an NRC interview today that the school’s garden was surrounded by barbed wire.

In another NRC interview today, survivor Ms Jo Keepers says: ‘We were not more than slaves.’ The forced labour was financially lucrative for the congregation. Hardly any education. Sexual abuse. Ms Keepers ran away several times, but was brought back by police and then punished by the nuns.

The practice itself was already known. Annemie Knibbe of the Women’s Platform on Religious Child Abuse four years ago in Trouw daily already mentioned the children’s homes of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, where thousands of women did forced labour. Five women have reported abuse of power.


These five women now demand apologies and payment of non-received wages. They are supported in this by the Women’s Platform. They want the government to do independent investigation about the exploitation, investigation in which also the role of the government should be considered.

Similar abuses have also occurred in Ireland. The same congregation, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, was involved. At the beginning of this century, the Irish government apologized and paid damage.

The congregation has informed the NRC that the victims have been offered an apology. The sisters, however, refuse to pay compensation because of the time bar in the cases.

Fallen women

In the sewing workshops and laundries, so-called fallen women worked. … Until the beginning of the 1970s

Ms Barbara Hoijtink comments: ‘The forced labor was till 1979 in Almelo. I am one of the victims and have lived there from 1976 till 1979.’

they were placed there in the institutions against their will by the government, guardianship associations, the child protection service and parents.

The work there was presented as penance. The business orders came from factories, clothing companies, hotels and hospitals, but also from private individuals. In 1933 an order came in for 40,000 army shirts.

The institutions of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd were located in Tilburg, Zoeterwoude, Almelo and Velp.

See also here.

Here is a document about a Dutch woman sexually abused as a child at a Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd boarding school.

12 thoughts on “Roman Catholic forced labour for Dutch girls

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  11. Hello. The forced labor was till 1979 in Almelo. I am one of the victims and have lived there from 1976 till 1979. Please adjust your article. Thank you


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