Given Ireland's conservative sexual values, Magdalen Asylums were a generally accepted social institution until well into the second half of the 20th century. They disappeared with the changes in sexual mores -- or, as some say, as they ceased to be profitable. "Possibly the advent of the washing machine has been as instrumental in closing these laundries as have changing attitudes," according to Frances Finnegan.
The sending of "wayward women" to Magdalen Asylums was an example of what many feminists regard as the phenomenon in which even suspected sexual misconduct by women is punished harder than sexual misconduct by men.(Source)