It seems that to some people that they give more so society than others, butthan there is one woman, who gave her life to society to help others thoughgiving and sharing and helped people through a time of need. Yet there seems tobe few there is. Dorothy Day, patron of the Catholic Worker movement, was bornin Brooklyn, on New York, November 8, 1897. After surviving the San Franciscoearthquake in 1906, the Day family moved into a tenement flat in Chicago’s SouthSide. It was a big step down in the world made necessary because Dorothysfather was out of work. Day’s understanding of the shame people feel when theyfail in their efforts dated from this time.
It was in Chicago that Day began toform positive impressions of Catholicism. Day recalled. when her father wasappointed sports editor of a Chicago newspaper, the Day family moved into acomfortable house on the North Side. Here Dorothy began to read books thataffected her conscience. Upton Sinclair’s novel, The Jungle, inspired Day totake long walks in poor neighborhoods in Chicago’s South Side. It was the startof a life-long attraction to areas many people avoid. Day won a scholarship thatbrought her to the University of Illinois campus at Urbana in the fall of 1914.
However, she was a reluctant scholar. Her reading was chiefly in a radicalsocial direction. She avoided campus social life and insisted on supportingherself rather than living on money from her father.
Dropping out of college twoyears later, she moved to New York where she found a job as a reporter for TheCall, the city’s only socialist daily. She covered rallies and demonstrationsand interviewed people ranging from butlers to labor organizers andrevolutionaries. She next worked for The Masses, a magazine that opposedAmerican involvement in the European war. In September, the Post Officerescinded the magazine’s mailing permit.
Federal officers seized back issues,manuscripts, subscriber lists and correspondence. Five editors were charged withsedition. In November 1917 Day went to prison for being one of forty women infront of the White House protesting women’s exclusion from the electorate.Arriving at a rural workhouse, the women were roughly handled. The womenresponded with a hunger strike.
Finally they were freed by presidential order.Returning to New York, Day felt that journalism was a meager response to a worldat war. In the spring of 1918, she signed up for a nurse’s training program inBrooklyn.
Her conviction that the social order was unjust changed in nosubstantial way from her adolescence until her death. Her religious developmentwas a slower process. As a child, she attended services at an Episcopal Church.As a young journalist in New York, she would sometimes make late night visits toSt.
Joseph’s Catholic Church on Sixth Avenue. The Catholic climate of worshipappealed to her. While she knew little about Catholic belief, Catholic spiritualdiscipline fascinated her. She saw the Catholic Church as “the church ofthe immigrants, the church of the poor.
” In 1922, while in Chicago workingas a reporter, she roomed with three young women who went to Mass every Sundayand holy day and also set aside time each day for prayer. It was clear to herthat “worship, adoration, thanksgiving, supplication … were the noblestacts of which we are capable in this life.” Her next job was with anewspaper in New Orleans.
Living near St. Louis Cathedral, Day often attendedevening Benediction services. Back in New York in 1924, Day bought a beachcottage on Staten Island using money from the sale of movie rights for a novel.She also began a four-year common-law marriage with Forster Batterham, anEnglish botanist she had met through friends in Manhattan. Batterham was ananarchist opposed to marriage and religion. In a world of such cruelty, he foundit impossible to believe in a God.
By this time Day’s belief in God wasunshakable. It grieved her that Batterham didn’t sense God’s presence within thenatural world. “How can there be no God,” she asked, “when thereare all these beautiful things?” His irritation with her “absorptionin the supernatural” would lead them to quarrel. What moved everything to adifferent plane for her was pregnancy.
She had been pregnant once before, yearsearlier, as the result of a love affair with a journalist. This resulted in thegreat tragedy for her in her life, an abortion. The affair and its