She was born in Brooklyn New York on November 8, 1897. Her family moved to the San Francisco Bay area and then to Chicago where she was baptized in the Episcopal Church. She attended the University of Illinois at Urbana and became interested in radical social causes as a way to help workers and the poor. In 1916, she left the university and moved to New York City where she worked as a journalist on socialist newspapers, participated in protest movements, and developed friendships with many artists and writers. During this time, she also experienced failed love affairs, a marriage, a suicide attempt, and an abortion.
Dorothy had grown to admire the Catholic Church as the “Church of the poor” and her faith began to take form with the birth of her daughter Tamar in 1926. Her decision to have her daughter baptized and to embrace the Catholic faith came at great personal cost, the end of her common law marriage and the loss of many friends. Dorothy struggled to find her role as a Catholic. While covering the 1932 Hunger March in Washington, DC, for several Catholic magazines on Dec. 8, she visited the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and prayed for guidance on how to use her special gifts in service of the hungry and the poor. The following day, back in New York, she met Peter Maurin, an immigrant from France and former Christian Brother, who had a vision for a society constructed of Gospel values. Together they founded the Catholic Worker newspaper which spawned a movement of Houses of Hospitality and farming communes that has been replicated throughout the United States and other countries.
At the Catholic Worker, Dorothy Day lived a life of fidelity to the Scripture, practicing voluntary poverty, the works of mercy, and working for justice and peace. Many of the positions she espoused were prophetic, but always emanated from the Gospel and the example of the saints, like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Teresa of Lisieux. Always present for Dorothy Day, was a question expressed in her autobiography, The Long Loneliness, “ Why was so much done in remedying evil instead of avoiding it in the first place…Where were the saints to try to change the social order, not just to minister to slaves, but to do away with slavery?”
Dorothy Day was shot at while working for integration, prayed and fasted for peace at the Second Vatican Council, received communion from Pope Paul VI at the 1967 International Congress of the Laity, and addressed the 1976 Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia. Her pilgrimage ended at Maryhouse in New York City on November 29, 1980, where she died among the poor.