Common Threads

In the 1960s, a time of turbulence and change in America, a group of women who had made it their life's mission to serve others, would find themselves irrevocably entwined with a people in the region of Appalachia. Little did they know, a life altering choice would have to be made in order to maintain established relationships and continue this passionate work. The Federation of Communities in Service would be the result of hard choices made by these women. 

When the Glenmary Sisters began working with the Appalachian people, first in Chicago with those who had migrated to find work, an unexpected thing happened: they discovered a common thread.  Anyone who has ever envisioned and created a work of art: made a quilt, knitted a sweater, painted a picture, sculpted clay, written a song, played an instrument, or realized an idea, understands the meaning of a common thread.  Webster defines common as belonging equally to the community at large, and thread as a fine cord composed of strands of silk, cotton or nylon.  The communities of FOCIS, and the communities of Appalachia, would discover a common thread and blend diverse backgrounds, personalities, skills and talents, to become one equal community woven together by the strong thread of common ground.

This exhibit is a "sampler" of the extensive 71 box Federation of Communities in Service (FOCIS) Records, held by the Archives of Appalachia at East Tennessee State University. The records include historical data, interview recordings, transcripts, photographs and film that highlight the valuable contributions and organizations forged by the perseverance and hard work of a dedicated group of determined women.


curated by Sandy Laws