Dorothy Day (1897-1980) was a devout Catholic and suffragist who worked for equality and social reform. A journalist and member of the National Woman’s Party, Day was part of the Silent Sentinels who protested the White House for women’s suffrage. She suffered injuries after being thrown against an iron bench on the “Night Of Terror” (Episode 73). Although she held no official office within the Catholic Church, she co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement in 1933. She published “The Catholic Worker” newspaper as a pacifist response to the Communist newspaper “The Daily Worker”. Day took on all of the important social issues of her lifetime: women’s rights, poverty, wars, class struggle, economic inequality, nuclear threat, and civil rights. She wanted to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
When she was nine years old, her family survived the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. The sight of her mother and neighbors helping the homeless and injured left an impression on her even after the family relocated to Chicago. Her family was Protestant but not overly religious. They valued education and Day had a happy childhood although in her autobiography, “The Long Loneliness” (1952) she admits to being insufferably and proudly pious as a child. Eventually her family became more active in the Episcopalian Church. Day embraced Christianity and the Bible; she was highly influenced by the “Sermon on the Mount”.
She became an important reformer for workers rights, civil rights, women’s rights, and peace movements. In 1927 she switched to Catholicism and went on to become one of the most influential and outspoken Catholic radicals of the 20th century. She was arrested in 1973 at 76 years old while protesting for the United Farm Workers. She died in 1980 and requested that her diaries and correspondence be sealed until 25 years after her death. Always an advocate for the Church’s core directive to take care of the poor and most vulnerable in society, she was put up for canonization as a saint by the Catholic Church. Her status is still in progress but her letters and diaries have been published in two separate books, “The Duty of Delight: Diaries of Dorothy Day” (2008) and “All the Way to Heaven: The Selected Letters of Dorothy Day” (2010).