Dorothy Day: An Introduction

by Terence C Wright, Ignatius, 162pp, £12

The author, an academic at the St John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, has written an excellent short introduction to the life of this most human of women, whose Cause has been introduced. For those who do not yet know Dorothy Day, this book gives insight into the inscrutable but amazing workings of grace and, for those who do know her, it is an encouraging sign that her life is becoming more popularly known and understood.

In her life before conversion, Day reflected all the social currents of the 20th century as they affected women. Born in 1897 and growing up without religious faith, she was determined to make her own way both as a writer and a free, independent woman. This life without a spiritual compass led to a love affair, an abortion, two attempts at suicide, a brief marriage and then a relationship with the man who provided the catalyst for her transformation, Forster Batterham, an anarchist.

Day, pregnant and wanting her unborn baby to be baptised, had to choose between Batterham and her own growing faith. She had begun to see that “worship, adoration, thanksgiving, supplication – these were the noblest acts of which men were capable in this life”.

Having chosen conversion, Day was providentially introduced to Peter Maurin, the French autodidact who helped her start The Catholic Worker newspaper, followed by her founding Houses of Hospitality for homeless people, as well as Catholic Worker farming communities.

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