Lives to Inspire: Dorothy Day


Dorothy was born into a non-practising Episcopal family, the daughter of a newspaper journalist.

A studious girl, she read a lot and early on had socialist leanings. She was actively involved in the women’s suffrage campaign and was jailed for a short time for protesting.

As a young woman she lived a bohemian life, had a number of lovers and a much regretted abortion in 1920.
She was educated in the Catholic faith by Sister Aloysia and received into the Church in 1926. She had her one year old baby, Tamar, baptised in 1927.

Dorothy became interested in Catholic Social Teaching. She valued its respect for workers and their rights but also its way of not making an enemy of other classes. The Church’s insistence on charitable action to accompany its teaching also appealed to her.

During the Spanish Civil war the Catholic Worker took an anti-war, pacifist position, which it maintained during the Second World War; a position which lost it the bulk of its readership.

During the mid-thirties the Catholic Worker Movement in the USA grew rapidly establishing ‘Houses of Hospitality’ in cities and farm communes in the countryside. Many of these houses provided food and welcome for the poor. By 1940 there were 30 independently run communities affiliated to the Catholic Worker Movement. Today there are well over 200 communities in Australia, UK, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Mexico, New Zealand and Sweden.

During the 1970’s Dorothy Day received many awards from religious institutions and met Mother Teresa.
She died in 1980 of a heart attack. She later had a memorial Mass celebrated by Cardinal Terence Cooke in St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York.

Dorothy Day has been considered by the Catholic Church to be a ‘Servant of God’: this is the first step towards canonisation.

Dorothy Day

Name: Dorothy Day

1897: Born in New York City

1911: Dorothy was baptised and confirmed in the Episcopal Church in 1911.


1914: Studied at the University of Illinois. Worked as a journalist for various socialist newspapers in New York.

1920: Married Berkeley Tobey.
1924: Divorced.

1926: Gave birth to a daughter, Tamar. She also became a Catholic at the end of 1926.

1932: met Peter Maurin and with him, a year later started the newspaper The Catholic Worker and the Catholic Worker Movement itself.

1980: died in New York City

Quote from Dorothy

But I am sure that God did not intend that there be so many poor. The class structure is of our making and our consent, not His.
It is the way we have arranged it, and it is up to us to change it.
So we are urging revolutionary change.

Dorothy Day

Today’s Scripture

Luke 4: New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

Thought for the Day

Poverty is still with us today. Why do we not protest when the CEO gets a wage increase of 200% while those on a basic minimum wage are expected to show restraint?

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