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Day, Dorothy (1897–1980)

Benjamin J. Pauli


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As a writer, activist, and matriarch of the Catholic Worker movement , Dorothy Day helped to redefine the way Catholic religious teaching related to social engagement. Day was born in Brooklyn in 1897 but spent the bulk of her formative years in Chicago, where exposure to urban poverty initiated what would become a lifelong concern with social ills. When she first came into contact with radicalism as a student at the University of Illinois, the groundwork of righteous indignation that had been laid during her explorations of Chicago's slums was channeled into political activism. She joined the Socialist Party and began working for the Socialist newspaper the Call in 1916 upon moving to New York City. This was the first of several newspaper positions, and her journalism brought her into contact with protests, marches, and meetings, as well as the crowd of bohemian leftist intellectuals that became her chosen coterie. Day was about to undergo a religious transformation, however, which would put this period of her life – which included multiple partners, a divorce, and an abortion – in a significantly different perspective. While Day had felt a vague spirituality all her life, as a young woman she had been hostile toward religion on account of its role in fostering complacency and conservatism. Yet her interest in Catholicism grew during these years, and was bolstered by the birth ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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