Dorothy Day Additional Biography

Biography

The social activist Dorothy Day has been called the most important lay person in the history of American Catholicism. She was born the third of five children to John Day and the former Grace Satterlee. Her father, an agnostic newspaperman, was a reserved Republican who provided little warmth for his children. Her mother, an occasional Episcopalian, similarly offered little affection, though Day’s home life seems to have been reasonably happy. The family moved from Brooklyn to Berkeley, California, in 1903, then to Chicago following the 1906 earthquake. Day grew up in Chicago, and in 1914 she entered the University of Illinois on a Hearst scholarship of three hundred dollars. She had acquired political opinions by that time, many of them derived from Peter Kropotkin’s Memoirs of a Revolutionist (1899) and Jack London’s books. Probably the greatest influence on her was The Jungle (1906), Upton Sinclair’s novel of the meat-packing industry in Chicago, for she was able to observe firsthand many of the conditions he described.

In 1916, she and her family moved to New York, where she pursued a journalistic career with various left-wing magazines, beginning with the socialist Call. She moved on to Masses, a communist journal run by Max Eastman, which was shut down after the United States entered World War I in April, 1917. By that time, Day had been arrested (the first of a dozen times) for picketing the White House with other suffragists; she spent a scarring month in prison. During most of the war, she worked as a nurse. For one year, during a brief marriage, she lived in Europe. There, she wrote the novel The Eleventh Virgin, which was later sold to Hollywood and enabled her to purchase a cottage on Staten Island. She entered a common-law marriage with Forster Batterham in 1924 and spent four happy years with him; they had a daughter, Tamar Teresa, in 1927.

The birth of her daughter caused a spiritual crisis...

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Biography

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature, Critical Edition)

Author Profile

Dorothy Day joined the radical union the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and became a reporter for the socialist papers Call and The Masses. Jailed in 1917 for picketing the White House on behalf of woman suffrage, she was arrested again in 1973 while demonstrating in favor of César Chávez’s United Farm Workers. She founded a paper called the Catholic Worker and set up “houses of hospitality” for the poor and unemployed. Her own accounts of her social activism can be found in House of Hospitality (1938), On Pilgrimage: The Sixties (1972), and her autobiography The Long Loneliness (1952).

Bibliography

Coles, Robert. Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1987. An accessible introduction to Day’s life and work that draws on the author’s long friendship with Day and includes many excerpts from letters and conversations.

Merriman, Brigid O’Shea. Searching for Christ: The Spirituality of Dorothy Day. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame, 1994. From the series Notre Dame Studies in American Catholicism. Includes bibliographical references and an index.

Miller, William D. Dorothy Day: A Biography. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982. A detailed biography that supplements his 1973 book (below).

Miller, William D. A Harsh and Dreadful Love: Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement. New York: Liveright, 1973. Treats Day’s life in the context of the Catholic Worker movement.

Nies, Judith. Nine Women: Portraits from the American Radical Tradition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. Places Day in the context of American radicalism along with Sarah Grimké, Mother Jones, and others; it includes an extensive bibliography following the chapter on Day.

O’Connor, June. The Moral Vision of Dorothy Day: A Feminist Perspective. New York: Crossroad, 1991. Includes bibliographical references and an index.

Roberts, Nancy. “Building a New Earth: Dorothy Day and The Catholic Worker.” The Christian Century 97 (1980). A philosophical look at Day’s life and work, written only days before her death.

Thorn, William J., Phillip M. Runkel, and Susan Mountin, eds. Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement: Centenary Essays. Milwaukee, Wis.: Marquette University Press, 2001. From the series Marquette Studies in Theology. Includes bibliographical references and an index.

Bibliography

Coles, Robert. Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1987. An accessible introduction to Day’s life and work that draws on the author’s long friendship with Day and includes many excerpts from letters and conversations.

Merriman, Brigid O’Shea. Searching for Christ: The Spirituality of Dorothy Day. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame, 1994. From the series Notre Dame Studies in American Catholicism. Includes bibliographical references and an index.

Miller, William D. Dorothy Day: A Biography. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982. A detailed biography that supplements his 1973 book (below).

Miller, William D. A Harsh and Dreadful Love: Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement. New York: Liveright, 1973. Treats Day’s life in the context of the Catholic Worker movement.

Nies, Judith. Nine Women: Portraits from the American Radical Tradition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. Places Day in the context of American radicalism along with Sarah Grimké, Mother Jones, and others; it includes an extensive bibliography following the chapter on Day.

O’Connor, June. The Moral Vision of Dorothy Day: A Feminist Perspective. New York: Crossroad, 1991. Includes bibliographical references and an index.

Roberts, Nancy. “Building a New Earth: Dorothy Day and The Catholic Worker.” The Christian Century 97 (1980). A philosophical look at Day’s life and work, written only days before her death.

Thorn, William J., Phillip M. Runkel, and Susan Mountin, eds. Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement: Centenary Essays. Milwaukee, Wis.: Marquette University Press, 2001. From the series Marquette Studies in Theology. Includes bibliographical references and an index.