The Catholic Worker Movement
Thirty interesting facts about Dorothy Day's life, many commonly known and others less so:
- Born in 1897, she was raised in a nominally Protestant
family and became a Roman Catholic in 1928.
- One of her early memories was the 1906 San Francisco
earthquake and how her mother offered help to quake
- Her father was a sportswriter who covered racetrack news.
- She loved reading novels from early childhood on, and her
favorite author was Fydor Dostoevsky.
- She was baptized and confirmed at the Episcopal Church of Our Savior in Chicago in March of 1911 when she was thirteen.
- She rejected organized religion in college because she
didn't see so-called "religious people" helping
- In the World War I period she was part of a circle of
social radicals and literary types like Eugene O'Neill.
- She first went to jail with a group of suffragists in
1917 who were demonstrating at the White House in favor
of giving women voting rights.
- She had an abortion in a failed relationship when she was
22 years old.
- The birth of her daughter Tamar in 1926, within a
common-law marriage, brought her great joy and happiness,
and led to her final embrace of the Catholic faith.
- She met Peter Maurin in 1932, in the midst of the Great
- The Catholic Worker newspaper appeared in May 1933 with
2,500 copies distributed by hand. Circulation grew to
190,000 by 1938, and dropped to 50,000 during World War
II, largely because of the paper's pacifist stand.
(Today's circulation is over 80,000.)
- The first House of Hospitality opened in 1933. Today over
220 Catholic Worker communities exist in thirty-nine
states and ten foreign countries.
- She maintained throughout her life that Peter Maurin, not
she, started the Catholic Worker Movement. She called him
a modern St. Francis who was responsible for completing
her Catholic education.
- Her written work includes 8 books, 350 plus articles for
journals and magazines, and over 1,000 articles for The
Catholic Worker newspaper.
- A heavy smoker for years, she finally gave up the habit
"cold turkey" after praying for several years
for help in quitting.
- She went to daily Mass and weekly confession, and
regularly went on religious retreats.
- She read the Bible at a time most Catholics didn't.
- She travelled long distances by bus. She carried a Bible,
a missal, the Divine Office, and a jar of instant coffee
on her hundreds of trips.
- She went to jail four times from 1955 to 1959 for acts of
civil disobedience. She with others refused to take
shelter during civil defense drills that simulated a
nuclear attack on New York City.
- In 1955 she became a professed secular oblate of the
Benedictine Abbey of St. Procopius.
- She and a group of women fasted for ten days in 1963 in
Rome, at Vatican Council II, wanting the bishops to
condemn all war. They did condemn nuclear war.
- She was instrumental in founding Pax Christi USA.
- She was a prolific letter writer, including many years of
correspondence with the monk Thomas Merton.
- She was a grandmother nine times, with one grandson going
to Vietnam with the U.S. military during the war.
- She was a friend to bishops and cardinals, while being
critical of the Church's wealth and support for war and
- She went to India to speak to Mother Teresa's novices and
received a cross from Mother Teresa worn by the
Missionaries of Charity.
- Her last jailing was in 1973 at the age of 75 while
protesting with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers
- She loved the beauty of the natural world and would seek
out the quiet of a small beach cottage she owned on the
shore of Staten Island.
- Her gravestone has engraved on it a design of loaves and
fishes and thewords "Deo Gratias" ("thanks
be to God").