Dorothy Day was one of those rare figures in American history who rarely compromised her morals. She is most well-known for the publication, the Catholic Worker, which told the stories and gave voice to those who survived the Great Depression. Although known as a religious figure her beginnings were anything but pious which proves that morality is not always linked to religion. Before her conversion to Catholicism, she sought to give voice to the least amongst us in society. In totality, her life’s work has put her name at the top of the list of American social justice warriors.
Her awakening to the injustices in the world started in her teenage years wandering the streets of Chicago. Chicago at that time had an immigrant community working in conditions of extreme poverty. In 1916 she moved to New York and started to attend the Catholic churches in the area because their mission aligned with her ideological beliefs in helping immigrants and the poor. As part of her mission to become a better Catholic/public servant, (her actions made the two indistinguishable) she contributed articles to the Catholic Magazine Commonweal. Her articles challenged some of the prevailing orthodoxy of the church when she felt that the needs of the disposed were not being adequately addressed. In order to better relate to the plight of the poor, she lived a life of self-imposed austerity, which meant relying on the bare minimum to get through daily life.
On May 1 1933 she published a magazine for which made her a historical figure, The Catholic Worker. Released during the years of the Great Depression the magazine had a great appeal to those who were out of work. The tone she struck with the magazine was strident, but not doctrinal, which allowed for much broader appeal than many of the publications of that time. Unlike most of the publications associated with the church, The Catholic Worker addressed issues such as racism and corporate greed. Her following project ventured into community activism called the Worker School. The goal of this project was to provide living accommodations for the poor within a self-contained community. She imposed no conditions upon living there, and did not even proselytize her faith despite how she related it to her mission. Like most churches she received donations to make the goals of the Catholic Worker succeed.
The selflessness and dedication that Dorothy Day exhibited throughout her life relates to the goals Making It to The Finish Line instills in young people. Looking out for others who are in need is what makes a community survive and thrive. However, these skills are not innate; they have to be cultivated through years of practice and commitment. One way to carry on her life’s work is to get involved with this or any organization that is dedicated to helping out your local community. If you or anyone you know is interested in finding out about Dorothy Day and other activist, check out the source below.
Dreier, P. (2012). The 100 greatest Americans of the 20th century: A social justice hall of fame. New York: Nation Books.