Dorothy Day

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Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day (November 8, 1897 - November 29, 1980) was a leftist activist who founded the Catholic Worker movement in 1933 with Peter Maurin. She was a card carrying member of the the anarcho-syndicalist Industrial Workers of the World.[1][2]

Michael Harrington Connection

From the December 10, 1980 issue of Democratic Socialists of America publication In These Times, Michael Harrington described Dorothy Day's funeral:[3]

"When Dorothy Day was buried last week, a funeral mass was held at the Church of the Nativity on the Lower East Side, right around the corner from the Catholic Worker House of Hospitality where she lived and died...
There were some well-known people in the procession—Cesar Chavez, Dave Dellinger, Abbie Hoffman, Jack Egan from Notre Dame—but most were activists. Dorothy, who had been a feminist and socialist before World War I and a member of the Greenwich Village bohemians in the time of Eugene O’Neill and Hart Crane, had converted to Catholicism in the 1920s, and then, on May Day 1933, had started the Catholic Worker to prove, among many other things, that Catholicism could be genuinely radical. The movement flourished in those first years. Out of it emerged the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, the Catholic interracial movement, the Catholic peace movement and practically every other left tendency in the church.
Dorothy was a pacifist anarchist in the tradition of Kropotkin, Tolstoy and Dante...
I lived at the Catholic Worker in 1951 and ’52. We opposed the Korean War, fought for clemency for the Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Rosenberg and defended the civil liberties of Communists in the period of Joe McCarthy. Cardinal Spellman, the cold warrior who headed American Catholicism at the time, could not figure Dorothy out: she was as theologically orthodox as she was politically unorthodox. In the ’50s she led a civil disobedience movement against air-raid drills; in the ’60s she was in the forefront of the struggle against the war in Vietnam; and in her 70s she was arrested as a participant in the United Farm Workers strike..."

Memorial Speech for Elisabeth Gurley Flynn

Dorothy Day invited to speak at Memorial for Elizabeth Gurley Flynn 1964
Portion of Memorial speech from Dorothy Day for Elizabeth Gurley Flynn in 1964

Dorothy Day was unable to personally attend Elizabeth Gurley Flynn's memorial service, where she was asked to speak in 1964. But she sent along a speech.[4]

"I had first met her when I was eighteen and she was lecturing at some workers' hall in Brooklyn. I was a reporter on the New York Call, which boasted a staff of socialist, anarchist/ and Wobbly reporters, in addition to trade unionists who divided their allegiance between the American Federation of Labor and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, who had stayed outside the Federation. She was a member of the I.W.W. (Industrial Workers of the World), that truly indigenous form of unionism and radicalism. There had been no revolution in Russia as yet, and the I.W.W. was fought as bitterly as the Communists are today. In fact, it seems to me that anything that threatens money or property, anything that aims at a more equitable distribution of this world’s goods, has always been called communism. I like the word myself; it makes me think of the communism of the early Christians and the communism of the religious orders.
"In fact, the success and prosperity of religious orders shows how beneficial communism could be if it were practised for all, rather than for only those professed religious who give up family, marriage and personal belongings to devote themselves to the problems of poverty."

Dorothy Day "shared public platforms with high profile Communists including Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a paid official of the Communist Party USA (and later its first woman Chairman), took an active part in an array of Communist-led strikes during the 1930s and ‘40s and used her newspaper, the Catholic Worker (CW), of which she was editor for almost 50 years, as an organ of propaganda in favor of Communism.[5]

Socialist Debs Award

Every year since the mid 1960s the Indiana based Eugene V. Debs Foundation holds Eugene Debs Award Banquet in Terre Haute, to honor an approved social or labor activist. The 1972 honoree was Dorothy Day.[6]