Dorothy Day A Saintly Advocate For The Poor


Dorothy Day was a social activist for both women and the poor as well as a writer and journalist who lived from 1897 to 1980. Dorothy Day converted to Catholicism and became a dedicated advocate for those in society who needed aid; she is the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, a movement that provides aid to the poor and in need. Recently, the Catholic Church has proposed that Dorothy Day be nominated for sainthood for her work on behalf of the poor. Although Dorothy Day was born into a solid middle-class family in Brooklyn, New York, her advocacy for the poor demonstrated more than mere radicalism; indeed, her life’s work demonstrates a true caring for others who were not considered to be as fortunate as she. Dorothy Day demonstrated by more than just words, she demonstrated by her time, and personal devotion that one does not have to be less fortunate to truly care about others that are less fortunate in society. Throughout this paper, I will discuss Dorothy Day’s dedication to aid of the poor and refute claims that she was a middle-class radical simply because she was not impoverished.

Dorothy Day and the Long Loneliness

The Long Loneliness was written by Dorothy Day as an autobiography of her life, her beliefs, and her work. The title of her book, The Long Loneliness, comes from some of the loneliness that she experienced in her own life. “We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes from community”. Day believed that some loneliness stemmed for peoples detachment from others in society in favor of material possessions. Day possessed a firm belief that others in society need to help out each other and this can be seen through all of her writings and her work with the Catholic Workers Movement. The Long Loneliness is divided into three parts. In part one, Dorothy Day discusses her childhood including her interest in religion and how she came to gravitate toward radical socialist philosophies. The second part of Dorothy Day’s autobiography discusses her bohemian lifestyle, her marriage, and her conversion to Catholicism. The third part of her autobiography discusses meeting Peter Maurin and the founding of the Catholic Worker Movement.

Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement

Dorothy Day was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1897. At the age of six years old, Dorothy Day and her family relocated to the city of San Francisco where her father took a job working for a newspaper. The newspaper facility where her father worked was destroyed by an earthquake in 1906 and Dorothy Day witnesses both devastation and people coming together to help each other through that tough time. This was one of the first times Day witnesses people helping people and the difference that it made. Dorothy Day grew up to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, however, by all accounts she was not a dedicated scholar but instead studied radical religious ideology during that time. In 1932, Dorothy Day along with Peter Maurin started the Catholic Worker Movement, a movement geared toward providing aid to those who were hardest hit by the Great Depression. This movement stood for nonviolence, aid of the poor, and women’s rights. The movement was actually proposed by Maurin, however, Day readily accepted her role in founding the movement. Maurin proposed a movement based on Catholic social teachings which would include houses of hospitality, a monthly newspaper, and agricultural farms. Day recounted in the Long Loneliness that she saw it as an opportunity “to use what talents I possessed for my fellow worker, for the poor”.

Dorothy Day’s Dedication to the Poor

Day believed that poverty took a mental toll on those who were suffering from it. Dorothy considered more than the monetary plight of the poor and downtrodden, she considered the mental state of those who fell on hard times as well. Dorothy Day strongly opposed the denigration of the poor and the breaking of their spirits. Day believed that the capitalist system alienated the poor. Furthermore, Day believed that the welfare system was the cause of a great deal of violence and suffering in society. Day became a strong advocate for others to step in and help the poor where the state feel short. Day’s life of self-sacrifice demonstrated that she lived by her words.

Day also put forth a great deal of effort to get the wealthy to see the poor as equal people. She believed that voluntary poverty or being introduced to poverty in some way would inspire people’s hearts to be more understanding of the poor.

Dorothy Day was an advocate for social change, including improvements in the welfare system, the end of the denigration of the poor, charity by other member of society, and Catholic based social values. Day spend a good portion of her life in voluntary poverty trying persuade others in society to detach from their material possessions and focus on people. Day, who did not have to live a life of humble means, choose to do so to help out others in society out of a sense of what was right. A middle-class radical would have preached on a soapbox and gone back to her nice home and nice lifestyle.

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