Who was Dorothy Day?

  Dorothy Day was born on November 8th, 1897 in Brooklyn New York. She spent much of her childhood in San Francisco and Chicago. It was during her families move to Chicago that Dorothy got to feel first hand the impact of not having needed resources, as her father was temporarily unemployed. He did gain employment as a journalist in Chicago, and while certainly not rich Dorothy grew up in a relatively middle class and education conscious home. In exploring the streets of Chicago, though, Dorothy saw first hand the impact of poverty on the lives of others, and from an early age developed a keen social conscience.

   Dorothy was an avid reader as a child, and though her family were nominal Christians she developed an interest in the family's Episcopalian faith. Throughout her early adult life, Dorothy would attend church services and admire the beauty of the liturgy, while at the same time insisting she was agnostic. Dorothy gained an appreciation for the Catholic Church when she noticed that it was the Church of the "immigrant and the poor ". Various experiences seemed to move her on a path towards the Catholic Church, but for much of her early adulthood she remained unaffiliated to any religion and surrounded herself with atheist socialists who understood her desire to promote social justice.  

   As a young adult Dorothy studied briefly at University Illinois, Urbana Champaigne. She then moved back to New York City and threw herself in the radical socialist movement of the day. She remained a staunch pacifist, often arguing with her friends about the need for non violent solutions to the social problems plaguing the poor in New York. Dorothy was employed by various socialist newspapers and magazines as a journalist. She was briefly married to Barkely Toby and the relationship resulted in her having an abortion, this tragic event was regretted by Dorothy for the rest of her life.

   After her marriage to Barkely ended Dorothy had a long term live-in arrangement with writer Foster Batterham. Her daughter Tamar Teresa was the result of this relationship. It was while living in a house on the beach in Staten Island with Foster that Dorothy began to consider Catholicism seriously. Always an admirer of the beauty of the Church as well as its social gospel, during her adult life Dorothy slowly moved towards accepting Jesus as God and then towards the Catholic Church. The birth of her daughter solidified her intention to convert and Dorothy was confirmed in the Catholic Church in December 1927 at the age of 30. Her conversion ended her relationship with Foster Batterham and stunned her socialist and atheist friends.

   Dorothy's passionate interest in helping those less fortunate led to her meeting with Peter Maurin, a meeting which would have monumental consequences. Along with Peter Maurin Dorothy is credited with starting the Catholic Worker newspaper which to this day still focuses on social justice issues and the ending of poverty. Dorothy and Peter also started Catholic Worker's Movement Hospitality Houses, directly helping the poor and destitute of New York City by offering space to sleep, eat, pray and be in community. The Catholic Worker Movements sought to "live in accordance with the justice and charity of Jesus Christ ". According to Dorothy Day " Our rule is the works of mercy. It is the way of sacrifice, worship, and a sense of reverence ". The Catholic Worker Movement spread throughout the United States and Europe, offering living space, hospitality, warmth, food and spiritual comfort to those most in need.

  Dorothy spent the rest of her life dedicated to the Catholic Worker Movement, to peace and justice issues, marching for the end to war, the end to nuclear armament, and for the rights of women as well. She was a controversial figure within the Church, as she was often outspoken about the excesses of capitalism, and the need for the Church to spend more of its resources on the poor. She is famously quoted as saying "I firmly believe our salvation depends on the poor". Dorothy remained a Roman Catholic to the end of her life, and remains an inspiration to people of many faiths who are passionate about creating a just and caring society. There is currently a wide spread call for the Roman catholic Church to canonize Dorothy Day as a Saint.