Brief Biography

BJ10--houseHospitality, book jacket_croppedDorothy Day was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 8, 1897, the third child of Grace and John Day.  Her nominally religious family moved to the San Franciso Bay area and then to Chicago where she was baptized in the Episcopal Church.  She attended the University of Illinois at Urbana and became interested in radical social causes as a way to help workers and the poor.  In 1916, she left the university and moved to New York City where she worked as a journalist on socialist newspapers, participated in protest movements, and developed friendships with many famous artists and writers.  During this time, she also experienced failed love affairs, a marriage, a suicide attempt, and an abortion.

Dorothy had grown to admire the Catholic Church as the “Church of the poor” and her faith began to take form with the birth of her daughter Tamar in 1926.  Her decision to have her daughter baptized and embrace the Catholic faith led to the end of her common law marriage and the loss of many of her radical friends.  Dorothy struggled to find her role as a Catholic.  While covering the 1932 Hunger March in Washington, D.C. for some Catholic magazines, she prayed at the national Shrine of the Immaculate Conception that some way would open up for her to serve the poor and the unemployed.  The following day, back in New York, she met Peter Maurin, a French immigrant and former Christian Brother, who had a vision for a society constructed of Gospel values.  Together they founded the Catholic Worker newspaper which spawned a movement of houses of hospitality and farming communes that has been replicated throughout the United States and other countries.

At the Catholic Worker, Dorothy Day lived a life faithful to the injunctions of the Gospel.  Often the newspaper quoted G.K. Chesterton’s famous observation that Christianity hadn’t really failed — it had never really been tried.  Day’s life was spent trying.  She was shot at while working for integration, prayed and fasted for peace at the Second Vatican Council, received communion from Pope Paul VI at the 1967 International Congress of the Laity, and addressed the 1976 Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia.  Her pilgrimage ended at Maryhouse in New York City on November 29, 1980, where she died among the poor.

19 Responses to Brief Biography

  1. Marla says:

    I have read so many posts on the topic of the blogger lovers except this article is really a good piece of writing, kerep it up.

  2. Isdore Madzirashe says:

    Touched by Dorothy’s life. There is room always to come back to God’s heart. She is a good example. St Dorothy pray for me.

  3. The article on Doris Day was excellent, an example of professional journalism at its very best, as well as a truly moving story of a woman of whom, to my own shame, I previously knew virtually nothing at all.

  4. Dolores M. Hunt says:

    Never heard of Dorothy Day until the Pope’s talk to Congress. I would like to learn more about her and her beliefs. Are there any books published about her?

  5. martin pearl says:

    I was surprised when Pope Francis mentioned Dorothy Day, praising her as he did Lincoln and Dr. King. Now I realize that she was a wonderful choice.

  6. B. Mary says:

    It was such a triumph of humility and hard work to hear Pope Francis refer to her as an exemplary American. Perhaps she will indeed become canonized.

  7. Les trejo says:

    I too am only now becoming acquainted with the legacy of Dorothy Day, however in the storm of domestic political discourse currently buzzing since Pope Francis elevated her contributions to a new generation before the Congress, it appears lost that hers was an example of personal and faith based ministry, from the heart and the.grass roots, and further, that it is a travesty for the self-serving secular politicians and pundits of our time to attempt to weave her spiritual jourmey into our contemporary legislative and constitutional crises. Jesus didn’t ask his followers to contribute their faith and support to any worldly power in the belief that would bring us Paradise.

  8. Rose says:

    Who was Merton?He was praised,also by the Holy Father.

  9. Brian Koehler says:

    I don’t remember how I first learned of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement, but I used to volunteer in the kitchen on weekends in the early 1970s at St. Joseph’s house. Later, I would often bring large sacks of organic brown rice and vegetables from a local food distributor in Tribeca. I would also attend the Friday evening meetings at times.One day in the early 1970s as I had organized a campaign to raise consciousness on the tragedy of famine in Sub-Saharan Africa, through Oxfam America, on the grounds of a NYC university, a woman approached me with an aging priest (I later learned he was a Jesuit friend of Dorothy’s). The woman was Dorothy Day. She kissed me on the cheek and turned to her Jesuit friend, saying something like “We have a new generation carrying on the work.” She asked me if I had a job upon graduation and offered to connect me with friends of hers at the United Parcel Service. I was a theology-philosophy major at the time. I later became licensed as a clinical psychologist working in hospitals, clinics and private practice with persons struggling with distressing psychotic states. It was partly my work at St. Joe’s soup kitchen that led me in that direction. I pray to Dorothy daily for family, friends and my patients.

    Brian Koehler

  10. says:

    Saw wonderful play about Dorothy Day all put on by one person. she was her own person from the start.

  11. Mr Shirley Siriwardena says:

    Catholics who wants to return the Church to the dark ages can do what they like but the spirit of people like Dorothy Day will never be shut. We have a great shepherd in our Pope Francis and we are the Church, people of God and not the Red and Purple clad administrators.

    Thank God for people like Dorothy Day and their spirit that inspire modern day young men and women who believe in the true teaching of the Gospel and practice what they preach and preach what they believe.

  12. William J. Schuch says:

    While a student at Cornell University from 1948 to 1952, I was active in the Newman Club. As a member of that Catholic student organization under the guidance of Father Donald Leary, I , together with some fellow Newman Club members, was to privileged to spend an evening with Dorothy Day. I often reflect that she was one very serious lady with respect to her work with Peter Maurin. I do hope and pray that she is canonized in my life time as an example of a sinner who became a saint by devoting her life to other humans in need.

    God bless you Dorothy Day. You continue to be an inspiration to me, though I often fail short of being a saint.

    Bill Schuch

  13. Julz says:

    I will sure pray for her Canonization to take place quickly, in this dire time of much needed hope and Mercy, to return back to the Father, especially in these end times.

  14. My name is Dorothy and I am a Sister of the Holy Family. We were established in 1872 to seek out the homeless and needy, especially women and children and today our Legacy is directed to homelessness, healthcare, hunger, immigration, I have always been inspired by Dorothy Day and her mission, so at 93, I adopted her as my patron saint and took as my mission to pray and work for her canonization. She is needed so much in our world today, especially to solve this homeless situation in our cities, our country, our world. Love in Action – what a motto.

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