Catholic Worker

It seems that to some people that they give more so society than others, but
than there is one woman, who gave her life to society to help others though
giving and sharing and helped people through a time of need. Yet there seems to
be few there is. Dorothy Day, patron of the Catholic Worker movement, was born
in Brooklyn, on New York, November 8, 1897. After surviving the San Francisco
earthquake in 1906, the Day family moved into a tenement flat in Chicago’s South
Side. It was a big step down in the world made necessary because Dorothys
father was out of work. Day’s understanding of the shame people feel when they
fail in their efforts dated from this time. It was in Chicago that Day began to
form positive impressions of Catholicism. Day recalled. when her father was
appointed sports editor of a Chicago newspaper, the Day family moved into a
comfortable house on the North Side. Here Dorothy began to read books that
affected her conscience. Upton Sinclair’s novel, The Jungle, inspired Day to
take long walks in poor neighborhoods in Chicago’s South Side. It was the start
of a life-long attraction to areas many people avoid. Day won a scholarship that
brought 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 radical
social direction. She avoided campus social life and insisted on supporting
herself rather than living on money from her father. Dropping out of college two
years later, she moved to New York where she found a job as a reporter for The
Call, the city’s only socialist daily. She covered rallies and demonstrations
and interviewed people ranging from butlers to labor organizers and
revolutionaries. She next worked for The Masses, a magazine that opposed
American involvement in the European war. In September, the Post Office
rescinded the magazine’s mailing permit. Federal officers seized back issues,
manuscripts, subscriber lists and correspondence. Five editors were charged with
sedition. In November 1917 Day went to prison for being one of forty women in
front of the White House protesting women’s exclusion from the electorate.

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Arriving at a rural workhouse, the women were roughly handled. The women
responded 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 world
at war. In the spring of 1918, she signed up for a nurse’s training program in
Brooklyn. Her conviction that the social order was unjust changed in no
substantial way from her adolescence until her death. Her religious development
was 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 to
St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Sixth Avenue. The Catholic climate of worship
appealed to her. While she knew little about Catholic belief, Catholic spiritual
discipline fascinated her. She saw the Catholic Church as “the church of
the immigrants, the church of the poor.” In 1922, while in Chicago working
as a reporter, she roomed with three young women who went to Mass every Sunday
and holy day and also set aside time each day for prayer. It was clear to her
that “worship, adoration, thanksgiving, supplication … were the noblest
acts of which we are capable in this life.” Her next job was with a
newspaper in New Orleans. Living near St. Louis Cathedral, Day often attended
evening Benediction services. Back in New York in 1924, Day bought a beach
cottage 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, an
English botanist she had met through friends in Manhattan. Batterham was an
anarchist opposed to marriage and religion. In a world of such cruelty, he found
it impossible to believe in a God. By this time Day’s belief in God was
unshakable. It grieved her that Batterham didn’t sense God’s presence within the
natural world. “How can there be no God,” she asked, “when there
are all these beautiful things?” His irritation with her “absorption
in the supernatural” would lead them to quarrel. What moved everything to a
different plane for her was pregnancy. She had been pregnant once before, years
earlier, as the result of a love affair with a journalist. This resulted in the
great tragedy for her in her life, an abortion. The affair and its

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