Many titles have been used to describe Dorothy Day: activist, journalist, suffragette, and, most recently, candidate for sainthood. But, after reading Patrick Jordan’s biography, nothing describes her better than a statement made by one of her fellow members at the Catholic Worker, Marge Crowe Hughes, “Dorothy is not a saint. She is a warrior.”
Although only 132 pages long, Patrick Jordan’s account of Day’s life provides us with the major points of her life and career, often referencing her memoirs directly to allow Day’s voice to be blatantly present throughout the book. Jordan talks about Day as though she is sitting right next to him, lovingly bringing up antidotes from the past and small quirks about her that would go seemingly unnoticed by those who did not know her well enough. His friendly nature towards writing this particular biography colours Day in a unique way that most writers would be unable to achieve if they were writing based only upon facts and previously written material. It’s almost as if we are being let into the relationship they shared through a scrapbooking of Jordan’s own encounters with her, along with the snapshots of meaningful connections she made with friends and family.
From her beginnings as a lonely middle child growing up in Brooklyn, New York to her last arrest at the age of 70, Day seems as though she has lived three lifetimes of three very different people in the span of her 83 years. She has worked at several socialist newspapers, fought for women’s suffrage and founded the Catholic Worker Movement along with its coinciding newspaper. Simultaneously, she was met with a lot of troubling obstacles during the time she spent working towards bettering her community. She was a single mother to her daughter, Tamar Hennessy, dealt with frequent run-ins with the police due to her activism and mistreatment by those who did not share her beliefs. To deal with the hardship within her life while still trying to help those in need, Day had to seem harsh and tough on the outside. But those that got close to her and broke through her shell during her life, like Jordan himself, got to see her true caring nature which was the foundation that her sincere activism was based upon.
Despite being such a devoted Catholic and even being considered for sainthood, Day never shied away from sharing her own flaws, making her accomplishments all the more amazing. Dealing with loneliness and depression did not stop her from following through with the extraordinary plans God had for her and, in many ways, even helped her to grow stronger. Reading Jordan’s recollection of most of her greatest endeavors, is sure to inspire those of us with our own struggles and sins to push past the doubts we have in our abilities and make the most of what God has given us.
As Catholics within a modern society, many of us feel that the struggles of everyday life and feeling insignificant within this large, ever-changing world can obstruct us from attempting to make a difference within our communities. But reading about Day’s life and accomplishments will inspire you to take action in some way to support the social justice issues you believe in, despite all of the odds that may seem to be stacked against you.
To read more on the life of Dorothy Day, check out our recent book by Patrick Jordan: Dorothy Day: Love in Action.
Christina D’Agnillo – Marketing Intern