Dorothy Day (November 8, 1897 – November 29, 1980) was co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement along with Peter Maurin. A writer and journalist by trade, she and Maurin founded the Catholic Worker newspaper. Jim Allaire and Rosemary Broughton offer an excellent introduction to her life in Praying with Dorothy Day:
Dorothy Day’s life and legacy is a radical movement, faithful to the Gospel and the church, immersed in the social issues of the day, with the aim of transforming both individuals and society. In an age marked by widespread violence, impersonal government, shallow interpersonal commitments, and a quest for self-fulfillment, Dorothy Day’s spirit fosters nonviolence, personal responsibility of all people to the poorest ones among us, and fidelity to community and to God.
Dorothy Day’s vision continues in the Catholic Worker Movement that she cofounded with Peter Maurin. Approximately 174 Catholic Worker communities serve in the United States, and 29 internationally. New houses of hospitality open every year. Dorothy left no rule or directions for the Catholic Worker communities. The rule she lived by and promoted is contained in the Gospels, most particularly in the Sermon on the Mount and in Matthew, chapter 25.
The vision of Dorothy Day lives on in The Catholic Worker newspaper that has been continually published since 1933. Dorothy was a journalist all her adult life, and she lived through and commented on the central events of the twentieth century: wars, economic depression, class struggle, the nuclear threat, and the civil rights movement. The Catholic Worker and her prodigious writings always focus the light of the Gospel on our conscience as we struggle with these issues. She wrote to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.
These world issues and the suffering of humanity still challenge people of conscience to create a better world. Dorothy Day’s response is essential Gospel: an old vision, so old it looks new. Her vision is anchored in the apostolic era and is essential for the atomic age. It challenges us to build community, grow in faith, and serve poor people. Her vision is a model of liberation for the United States.
—from Praying with Dorothy Day by James Allaire and Rosemary Broughton (Word Among Us Press)
The full introduction can be read here; browse the articles below for a more in-depth look at the life and legacy of Dorothy Day.
Here’s a lecture delivered by Robert Ellsberg at Loyola University Chicago’s Joan and Bill Hank Center for Catholic Intellectual Heritage on February 17, 2017. Ellsberg was a member of the Catholic Worker community in New York from 1975 to 1980, and served as the managing editor of The Catholic Worker newspaper from 1976 to 1978. He later went on to become editor-in-chief at Orbis Books.
An Introduction to The Eleventh Virgin by Paul Bowers. Paul Bowers lives with his wife and daughter on a ten-acre farm in Ringwood, Oklahoma. He earned a B.A. from The University of Tulsa, M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Oklahoma State University. He currently teaches writing and literature at Northern Oklahoma College in Enid, and serves as the Coordinator for Academic Service Learning.
Presented at the Dorothy Day Centenary Conference, Marquette University, October 10, 1997. This article also appeared in a shorter form as “The Trouble With Saint Dorothy“, U.S. Catholic, November 1997.