Until the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed in December 1921, the commonplace for mothers to have children outside of marriage would have been workhouses. The first workhouse was established in 1840/1841 as part of the Poor Law Union Act of 1838. This was to provide relief to those who could not provide for themselves.
When the Board of Guardians that administered relief to workhouses collapsed in 1921, The new way was through institutions set up by religious orders to look after unmarried mothers and their children. There were forty-eight mother and baby homes that operated between 1922 to 2006*
*last home in total. The last home that was run by a religious order closed in 1998.
These homes first gained notoriety in 2014 when Catherine Corless’ research on St. Mary’s Home, Tuam gained national and international attention due to the controversy over the burial locations of the decedents of the home. This, along with pressure from the public led to a Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes in 2015 and concluded in 2021 with varying opinions as to its findings. Survivors of these homes continue to fight for their rights to this day.