Thistle Farms, Nashville from United States
Founded in 1997 in Nashville, Tennessee, Magdalene is a two-year residential community for women with a history of prostitution and drug addiction. Founded not just to help a sub-culture of women, but to help change the culture itself, Magdalene stands in solidarity with women who are recovering from sexual abuse, violence, and life on the streets, and who have paid dearly for a culture that buys and sells women like commodities.
Thistle Farms began in 2001 as the cottage business of Magdalene, with the aim of helping women gain much-needed job skills and learn responsibility and cooperation. By hand, the women of Magdalene create natural bath and body products that are as kind to the environment as they are to the body. Into every product goes the belief that true freedom starts with healing and that love can change lives.
Why the thistle? Thistles grow on the streets and alleys where the women of Magdalene walked. Considered a weed, they have a deep tap root that can shoot through thick concrete and survive drought. And in spite of their prickly appearance, their royal and soft purple center makes the thistle a mysterious and gorgeous flower.
While serving in jail, Sheila remembered a woman she had met at an outreach event for Magdalene, and wrote a letter to the judge asking if she could enter the program. The judge granted her request and changed her life forever. Sheila says, "My life has changed since Magdalene. I own my own home; I am married, and I have a baby. I am cancer-free. I had breast cancer while in the program -- My life is full now. Magdalene is what gave me my life; it is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me."
Grace came to Magdalene after using drugs and prostituting for 23 years. A mother of four, and a grandmother of eight, Grace says that working for Thistle Farms has changed her life. "I am an artist; I draw, I write poetry. Magdalene has given me a wonderful life -- the best life I've ever had. I am blessed to live in the brand-new transition house. I give thanks to God and Magdalene."
Katrina, the mother of a seventeen-year-old daughter, walked the streets of Nashville prostituting and using drugs for nearly two decades. Now clean and working with Thistle Farms, Katrina says that she never thought her life would be this wonderful. "I now live a happy, healthy, and productive life. I went from living with my mom to living on the streets to owning my own brand new home. I love walking in the door of my house. It's my world. I never thought my life would be this amazing."