By Victoria Miller
Dorothy Day was a women’s rights activist, editor, journalist, prophet and faithful Daughter of the Church. Dorothy Day was born on Nov. 8, 1897 in New York City. Day’s parents, Grace and John, were journalists. She was also the third of five children. Known as a radical in her time for her involvement in women’s suffrage and pacifism, Day lived her later life in Chicago.
As a young adult, Day was accepted to the University of Illinois. She pursued her studies there for two years and then abandoned the University for her hometown of New York City. There she took part in the Greenwich Village neighborhood, which was a literal and liberalists community. Later in the 1910’s and 1920’s Day worked as a journalist writing for progressive publications and socialists. She also wrote four books, The Eleventh Virgin, From Union Square to Rome, House of Hospitality, and lastly On Pilgrimage. Day is very well known for being a journalist and activist, but not all of her articles benefited her. She was arrested several times for her protests, the most notable being when she went on a hunger strike to secure women the right to vote.
In 1927 Day converted to Catholicism after her daughter Tamar Teresa was baptized in the Catholic Church. After this conversion, Day, along with former Christian Brother Peter Maurin, founded The Catholic Worker, a newspaper that promoted Catholic Teachings and spoke about other issues in society. She wrote a total of 721 documents for the newspaper.
Its publication inspired the Catholic Worker Movement, a new organization through which Day helped to establish homes that could help the poor called “house of hospitality” in New York City. It provided food, clothing and shelter. The group also campaigned for nonviolence as well as unequal distribution of wealth. Though it started out in the United States, it quickly spread to Canada and the United Kingdom. Over 30 Catholic Worker Communities were founded by 1941.
Day described herself as a “Christian Personalist.” She believed that strong faith was at work when she helped the poor.
“The most important, interesting, and influential figure in the history of American Catholicism,” said historian David O’Brien about Day. She is still being considered for canonization as a saint for her Catholic commitment and social activism. However, despite her impact on the church her outspokenness and her lifestyle before her conversion is still controversial.
She died on Nov. 29, 1980. Most of her life was dedicated to faith and her socialist beliefs. Her movement continues to thrive with over 200 communities in the United States and 28 communities abroad. Dorothy Day led a free lifestyle; her writing was intelligent and inspired many people to pursue faith. She combined her love of scripture with characteristics of Catholicism. She has a strong sense of gratitude not only to God but to her fellow workers. Day become known as a Servant of God in March 2000.
As Day once said, “People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.”