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Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, was born in
Brooklyn, New York, November 8, 1897. After surviving the San Francisco
earthquake in 1906, the Day family moved into a flat in Chicago\'s South
Side. It was a big step down in the world made necessary because John
Day was out of work. Day understands of the shame people feel when they
fail in their efforts dated from this time. (Miller, p.4)
When John Day was appointed sports editor of a Chicago newspaper, the
Day family moved into a comfortable house on the North Side. Here
Dorothy began to read books that stirred her conscience. Upon Sinclair\'s
novel, The Jungle, inspired Day to take long walks in poor
neighbourhoods in Chicago\'s South Side. It was the start of a life-long
attraction to areas many people avoid.
Day won a scholarship that brought her to the University of Illinois
campus at Urbana in the fall of 1914. But she was a reluctant scholar.
Her reading was in a radical social direction. (Miller, p.5) She avoided
campus social life and insisted on supporting herself rather than live
on money from her father.
Dropping out of college two years later, she moved to New York where she
found a job as a reporter for The Call, the city\'s only socialist daily.
She covered rallies and demonstrations and interviewed people ranging
from butlers and butlers to labour organisers and revolutionaries.
She next worked for The Masses, a magazine that opposed American
involvement in the European war. In September, the Post Office rescinded
the magazine\'s mailing permit. Federal officers seized back issues,
manuscripts, subscriber lists and correspondence. Five editors were
charged with sedition.
In November 1917 Day went to prison for being one of forty women in
front of the White House protesting women\'s exclusion from the
electorate. Arriving at a rural workhouse, the women were roughly
handled. The women responded with a hunger strike. Finally they were
freed by presidential order.
Returning to New York, Day felt that journalism was a meagre response to
a world at war. In the spring of 1918, she signed up for a nurse\'s
training program in Brooklyn.
Her conviction that the social order was unjust changed in no
substantial way from her adolescence until her death, though she never
identified herself with any political party. (Forest, p.23) Her
religious development was a slower process. (Miller, p.6) As a child she
had attended services at an Episcopal Church. As a young journalist in
New York, she would sometimes make late-at-night visits to St. Joseph\'s
In 1922, in Chicago working as a reporter, she roomed with three young
women who went to Mass every Sunday and holy day and set aside time each
day for prayer. It was clear to her that "worship, adoration,
thanksgiving, supplication ... were the noblest acts of which we are
capable in this life."(Day, p.8)
Her next job was with a newspaper in New Orleans. Back in New York in
1924, Day bought a beach cottage on Staten Island using money from the
sale of movie rights for a novel. She also began a four-year common-law
marriage with Forster Batterham, an English botanist she had met through
friends in Manhattan. Batterham was an anarchist opposed to marriage and
religion. In a world of such cruelty, he found it impossible to believe
in a God. (Miller, p.6) It grieved her that Batterham didn\'t sense God\'s
presence within the natural world. "How can there be no God," she asked,
"when there are all these beautiful things?"(Day, p.11) His irritation
with her "absorption in the supernatural" would lead them to quarrel.
What moved everything to a different plane for her was pregnancy. She
had been pregnant once before, years earlier, as the result of a love
affair with a journalist. This resulted in the great tragedy of her
life, an abortion. The affair and its awful aftermath had been the
subject of her novel, The Eleventh Virgin. Her pregnancy with Batterham
seemed to Day nothing less than a miracle. But Batterham didn\'t believe
in bringing children into such a violent world.
On March 3, 1927, Tamar Theresa Day was born. Day could think of nothing
better to do with the gratitude that overwhelmed her than arrange
Tamar\'s baptism in the Catholic Church. "I did not want my child to
flounder as I had often floundered. I wanted to believe, and I wanted my
child to believe, and if belonging to a Church would give her so
inestimable a grace as faith in God, and the companionable love of the
Saints, then the thing to do
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Christianity, Activism, Catholic Workers, Christian anarchists, Nonviolence, Catholic Worker Movement, Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, Catholic Worker, Tom Cornell, Catholic social teaching, Committee of Catholics to Fight Anti-Semitism
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