Sunday, 2 July 2017


Dorothy Day, Obl.S.B., (November 8, 1897 – November 29, 1980) was an American journalist, social activist, and Catholic convert. Day initially lived a bohemian lifestyle before gaining fame as a social activist after her conversion. She never quite left that bohemian past behind, and never became an establishment figure.

She was also an active journalist and described her social activism in her writings. In 1917 she was imprisoned as a member of suffragist Alice Paul's nonviolent Silent Sentinels. She even went on a hunger strike after being jailed for protesting in front of the White House in 1917 as part of an effort to secure the right to vote for women.

Day's conversion (in 1927) is described in her autobiography, The Long Loneliness. While she became a Catholic, during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), when the Catholic Church supported Franco, Dorothy supported the Spanish republic.

Day met Peter Maurin, a French immigrant and former Christian Brother, in 1932. The following year, they founded The Catholic Worker, a newspaper that promoted Catholic teachings and examined societal issues. The publication became very successful and spawned the Catholic Worker Movement, which followed its religious principles to tackle issues of social justice. As part of the movement’s belief in hospitality, Day helped establish special homes to help those in need.

The Catholic Worker Movement was a pacifist movement which combined direct aid for the poor and homeless with nonviolent direct action on their behalf. She practiced civil disobedience, which led to additional arrests in 1955, 1957, and in 1973 at the age of seventy-five

In her old age, she protested against US involvement in the Vietnam War and against the nuclear arms race.

Dorothy Day dedicated much of her life in service to her socialist beliefs and her adopted faith. She died on November 29, 1980, in New York City, at Maryhouse—one of the Catholic settlement houses she had helped establish. The movement she created continues to thrive to this day, with more than 200 communities across the United States and another 28 communities abroad.

She was a key figure in the Catholic Worker Movement and earned a national reputation as a political radical, perhaps the most famous radical in American Catholic Church history.

I only came across her by chance, and was amazed at all she had done. Here is a quote hard-hitting piece from her on how so many newspapers trivialise reporting and leave the poor invisible and unmentioned.

by Dorothy Day

A deer gets trapped on a hillside and every effort is brought to bear to rescue him from his predicament. The newspapers carry daily features. 

Mrs. A., with her four children and unemployed husband living on $1.50 a week, is trapped by economic circumstances and everyone is so indifferent that it took three or four afternoons of Mike Gunn's time to see to it that the Home Relief came to the rescue. Though Mike has enough to do with his Labour Guild over in Brooklyn, he was doing his bit as part of our Fifteenth Street Neighbourhood Council.

Three little pigs are crowded into a too- small cage, and the case is brought into court, the judge's findings in the case being that pigs should not be crowded the way subway riders are. 

And a family of eight children, mother and father, are crowded in three rooms, and the consensus of opinion is that they're lucky to have that and why don't they practice birth control anyway

A scavenger hunt is the latest game of Society. "A hilarious pastime," the New York Times society reporter calls it, and describes in two and one half columns the asinine procedure of several hundred society and literary figures, guests at a party at the Waldorf-Astoria, surging forth on a chase through the highways and byways of Manhattan Island.

"The scavengers' hunt of last night brought an enthusiastic response even from persons whose appetites for diversion are ordinarily jaded. The hunt was a search through the city streets for a ridiculously heterogeneous list of articles."

Any morning before and after Mass and straight on through the day, there is a "scavenger hunt" going on up and down Fifteenth Street outside the windows of The Catholic Worker and through all the streets of the city: people going through garbage and ash cans to see what they can find in the way of a heterogeneous list of articles.

The Times does not state what these things were but probably the list was made up of something delightfully and quaintly absurd such as old shoes, bits of string, cardboard packing boxes, wire, old furniture, clothing, and food.

If the several hundred guests at the Waldorf had to scavenge night after night and morning after morning, the hunt would not have had such an enthusiastic response.

November 1933

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