The Tempe Laundry (St Magdalen’s Retreat)
1 Princess Highway
Provider: The Good Samaritan Nuns
Year Opened: 1887
Year Closed: 1983
The Sisters of the Good Samaraton ran a refuge for destitute women, and an industrial laundry in Carters’ Barracks, Pitt St, Sydney. Upon purchase of Tempe House, it was renamed St Magdalen’s Retreat, it was also referred to the Tempe Laundry. It officially opened in October 1887 with 25 women from the Pitt Street Refuge. St Magdalen’s operated for 96 years.
Gradually the function changed from accommodation for destitute women to one primarily for women unable to find employment. Former prostitutes, ex-prisoners and alcoholics were accommodated for two years to work in the laundry, dairy or poultry yard. Younger women were taught cooking, sewing and other domestic duties.
In 1923 and 1929 changes to the Child Welfare Act put more emphasis on academic skills, rather than labour duties. The Good Samaritan Sisters’ St Magdalen’s Retreat closed in 1983.
Image of Tempe House, restored by the NSW Heritage Council – NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.
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