The Legacy of Dorothy Day (1897-1980)
By Angie Mangino
On December 29, 1927, Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, was received into the Catholic Church at Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in Tottenville by Father Joseph V. Hyland following her conversion to Catholicism and the baptism of her daughter, Tamar.
Saturday, November 8, 1997 was the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Dorothy Day, an event I covered with a commentary in the Staten Island Register in 1997. When I began writing this biographical profile of her, that day kept coming back to mind. The event at the Catholic Center at New York University started with a video of an interview done with Dorothy in 1973 at age 76 that impacted me for the rest of my life.
I heard her tell in her own voice of being called too religious by some, too radical by others, and I could relate to such accusations. My own feelings of never quite fitting the mold that society dictates stirred. Having read everything I could find about her in my research, I especially connected to the loneliness in her autobiography, The Long Loneliness.
In order to love one must first have love inside. This love was the measure of her life. The fullness of her belief was that the only law is love. When our hearts dictate what is the right thing to do is when, little by little, we grow in this love by opening ourselves to it. People may have criticized and judged Dorothy, but love gave her an inner strength to do what her heart told her.
John Steinbeck said, “It is the duty of the writer to lift up; to extend; to encourage.” Dorothy was a writer who fed off her experiences, putting those experiences into her writing. She had, and still has, an amazing effect on people. Her influence and love endures. Once touched by Dorothy Day, you can never forget it.
An introduction by Robert Ellis in his book By Little and By Little tells us more of Dorothy.
“She wrote to give reason for a marriage of convictions that was a scandal and stumbling block to many: radical politics and traditional conservative theology. Yet it was not what Dorothy Day wrote that was extraordinary, nor even what she believed, but the fact that there was absolutely no distinction between what she believed, what she wrote and the manner in which she lived.”
To me, that is the true legacy of Dorothy Day!