The Light in the Window, Paperback
3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


'I promised that I would one day write a book and tell the world about the home for unmarried mothers. I have at last kept my promise.' In Ireland, 1951, the young June Goulding took up a position as midwife in a home for unmarried mothers run by the Sacred Heart nuns. What she witnessed there was to haunt her for the next fifty years. It was a place of secrets, lies and cruelty. A place where women picked grass by hand and tarred roads whilst heavily pregnant.

Where they were denied any contact with the outside world; denied basic medical treatment and abused for their 'sins'; where, after the birth, they were forced into hard labour in the convent for three years.

But worst of all was that the young women were expected to raise their babies during these three years so that they could then be sold - given up for adoption in exchange for a donation to the nuns.

Shocked by the nuns' inhumane treatment of the frightened young women, June risked her job to bring some light into their dark lives.

June's memoir tells the story of twelve women's experiences in this home and of the hardships they endured, but also the kindness she offered them, and the hope she was able to bring.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Publishing
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Autobiography: general
  • ISBN: 9780091902056



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”This was my introduction to the woman who held power over three hundred and fifty unfortunate girls in a secret penitential jail.” . . . “This place was a plank that each girl had to walk alone.”June Goulding may not be heralded for a great writer, but the story through which she lived needed telling, and she bravely told it. A nurse trained in midwifery, June accepted a job at an unwed mother’s home in Ireland which was run by nuns. Whether it was the time (1951-1952) or the leadership (the specific nun in charge), the end result was a heartbreaking story of pitiful young girls left in the hands of one who saw their current condition as their just reward for capital S Sin. {Spoilers:} She saw to it that they got what they deserved during the birth – no screaming or noises allowed during childbirth, no sutures allowed, kept in an extremely uncomfortable position until just time to push. She made sure they got what they deserved in the rules she set for taking care of them – they must remain for three years afterward, taking care of their child and working at the ‘home’, after which their child was taken from them and adopted out, with no way of ever finding out where the child went. Unless their family could pay a certain amount, then they were released after ten days, with the baby taken away from them. She exacted her punishment for their Sin by in the work she required of them before their babies were born – trimming the grass by hand on their hands and knees, running heavy equipment to tar the drives, plus the regular cleaning and helping in the ‘home’. They were not to talk, especially to the nurse. But the nurse’s compassion won out; they talked every time that nun was out of earshot. The girls who had delivered told about their experiences to the ones waiting. The nun was around in the day time to ‘help’ the nurse. At night, the nurse got to deliver the babes without her interference. She still could not suture, not having the key to the supply chest, but she offered compassionate care and gentle hands. The girls took to their beds when their labor began, hoping to delay it long enough to have a night time delivery. On the nurse’s day off, if she returned to see a candle in the window, she knew there was an imminent birth awaiting her help. There was not much that June could do, but she did what she could to make their time there better. {End Spoilers.}In her book, the author is not patting herself on the back. She is telling the girls’ stories. And she did a right good job of that, too.

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