Dorothy Day: the “paradoxical saint” of New York

Anarchist, pacifist, and committed Catholic Dorothy Day is in the process of being canonized for sainthood.

She’s not the first New Yorker to become a saint or be in line for the designation, but she may be the least likely candidate.

Born in Brooklyn in 1897, Day spent her early adult years as a Marxist journalist and agnostic, anti-war, pro-suffrage activist.

She lived lived on the Lower East Side and Greenwich Village, in common-law arrangements with men, and had an abortion.

Then in the 1920s, after her daughter was born, she experienced a spiritual awakening. Day started going to mass daily, studied scripture, and embarked on an ascetic life.

And she founded the Catholic Worker movement: a newspaper with a socialist, pacifist slant that included a larger dedication to serving the poor.

Day did this by opening “houses of hospitality” in poor areas of the city that provided food, clothing, and shelter for the down and out.

Day herself lived in one, a group of cabins in Staten Island, the borough where she died in 1980 and is now buried in.

She never gave up her commitment to peace and improving the lives of the poor, which earned her accolades on the left.

But she also condemned abortion and birth control, which won her praise from conservative Catholics.

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4 Responses to “Dorothy Day: the “paradoxical saint” of New York”

  1. Phil Runkel Says:

    Please make the following corrections:

    1. DD was born in Brooklyn Hieghts. (Her family moved to Bath Beach
    several years later.)

    2. DD spent time on on Staten Island, but died at the New York Catholic
    Worker’s Maryhouse in Manhattan.

    3. Refer to the Catholic Worker movement in the present tense; it is still
    in existence

  2. Andrew Porter Says:

    According to a church deaconess who lived in my building, she was born at 71 Pineapple Street.

  3. Jim Forest Says:

    For those who want to know more about Dorothy’s remarkable life, I suggest my own biography of her. All Is Grace, published two weeks ago by Orbis Books. See this link for details:

  4. Chris Says:

    There is an orthodox Christian, St. Raphael of Brooklyn.

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