Abused by a nun at school, she tried to commit suicide by setting herself on fire. Later, she escaped for three months from a Cork laundry, but was recaptured and returned to the nuns by child protection officials.
This week, she flew to Dublin from her home in England, and was already beginning to fill in blanks and find old connections.
The two-day conference in Dublin was funded by the Irish government as part of an agreement to redress the mistreatment of the women. The event broke new ground by attracting so many women who had been confined in the laundries — once a source of shame in a deeply conservative Catholic country.
On Tuesday afternoon, Ireland’s president, Michael D. Higgins, hosted a reception and gala dinner for survivors. But what moved Ms. Coppin most was the reception she met when her bus pulled up outside the site of the event.
“The crowd on the street was cheering us,” Ms. Coppin said. “We couldn’t believe it. Not just women, but men and children, too. It was wonderful — very emotional.”
Ms. Coppin left Ireland the first chance she got after leaving the laundry and made a new life for herself in England. There, overcoming the poor education she received in the industrial school, she eventually went to college and became an elementary schoolteacher. She met an English man and had two children.
“England was my savior, like many women who went there, or to different countries like America,” she said. “My choice was to get as far away as possible from Ireland.”