- Category : Healing-Fields-Social-worker
- Type : GP
- Profile : 4/1 - Opportunistic / Investigator
- Definition : Split - Large
- Incarnation Cross : JX Self Expression
American activist in the Catholic Worker’s Union. A pragmatic idealist, she made a major impact on American Catholicism as she struggled for unions, higher wages and better conditions. She started "The Catholic Worker," to give voice to those displaced by the Depression, and the paper became the springboard of a social-reform movement that resulted in hospitality centers for the poor, hungry and homeless that exist today as Catholic Worker settlement houses. Her autobiography, "The Long Loneliness," was published in 1952.
Born into a middle-class Protestant family, Day was the third of five children of sportswriter John Day and his wife, Grace. The family moved to San Francisco when John took a job to write racetrack news, then was plunged into poverty after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake which destroyed the newspaper plant. Still, they opened their home to worse-off neighbors, before eventually moving to Chicago.
Dorothy, who had started writing a daily journal when she was a child, read a great deal, particularly Dickens and Dostoevsky. She also loved the Bible, and joined an Episcopalian congregation when she was ten. It was when her elder brother got a job with a labor newspaper that Dorothy became more aware of social problems, and she began to explore local slums for herself. Although she had entered the University of Illinois on scholarship at age 16, she left after two years with a social conscience that was growing away from religion and toward politics.
Day moved to New York and took a reporting job at the socialist newspaper, "The Call." She associated with artists, reformers and freethinkers, including playwright Eugene O’Neill, and defiantly drank heartily and began the chain-smoking habit she kept all her life. With a fiery temper, she quit her job one day after slapping another worker for being too familiar.
In November 1917, she went to prison for the first time after being arrested with other suffragists demonstrating in front of the White House. The experience made her feel she should help others directly rather than as an observer. In 1918, she began nurse’s training at Brooklyn’s King’s County Hospital. At the hospital, she fell in love with an orderly named Lionel Moise. He abandoned her at different intervals, and threatened to leave her again if she became pregnant: When she did, he convinced her to have an abortion, then left her anyway. Rebounding, she briefly married Berkeley Tobey, a co-founder of the Literary Guild, and then wrote a thinly-disguised autobiographical novel, "The Eleventh Virgin."
Following a divorce from Tobey, she sold the movie rights to her novel and bought a cottage on Staten Island. She wrote serial fiction and took a common-law husband, British biologist Forster Batterham, a confirmed atheist who loved nature but hated mankind.
Increasingly attracted to the Catholic Church, she began praying fervently and secretly attending services. Soon she was pregnant with her daughter, Tamar, born in March 1927, and it sealed her resolve to become Catholic. Fights with Batterham escalated, until one night she sent him away for good, and was baptized Catholic the next day.
On 12/8/1932, Day ducked into a Catholic church and prayed for guidance, and in less than 24 hours, Peter Maurin, a homeless freelance street preacher, came to her door. Out of nothing the two later started "The Catholic Worker," a newspaper for those displaced by the Depression. The publication, which made its debut on 5/01/1933, initiated a social-reform movement that gave food, clothing and shelter to anyone who needed it through "houses of hospitality," some in dilapidated buildings, with both visitors and volunteer staff living together as one family. Visitors soon started other such centers and by 1936, there were more than 30 Worker settlements in America.
Day continued to write prolifically, pioneering advocacy journalism through columns and muckraking investigative pieces. Her rebellious spirit would result in many articles and much activism: she was branded a heretic and a traitor, spent time in jail, and lost many of her supporters. A strong pacifist, she opposed every war in her lifetime, even World War II. In her seventh decade, she took a world tour where she visited Mother Teresa, who bestowed upon her the Missionaries of Charity cross. Day was jailed one last time for picketing on behalf of union farm workers in California.
In late summer 1976, she suffered a heart attack, but continued to write and worship from her bed. She died on 11/29/1980, New York, NY.
The bi-monthly "Catholic Worker" is still published, with a circulation of 90,000, and there are some 140 Catholic Worker settlement houses and farms in America and abroad. There are many who call her a saint for seeking to see Christ in everyone. Like so many saints of days gone by, she was an idealist in a non-ideal world. It was her contention that men and women should begin to live on earth the life they would one day lead in heaven, a life of peace and harmony.