Dorothy Day (November 8, 1897 – November 29, 1980) was an American journalist, social activist and anarchist who, after a bohemian youth, became a Catholic without abandoning her social and anarchist activism. She was perhaps the best-known political radical among American Catholics.
Day's conversion is described in her 1952 autobiography, The Long Loneliness. Day was also an active journalist, and described her social activism in her writings. In 1917 she was imprisoned as a member of suffragist Alice Paul's nonviolent Silent Sentinels. In the 1930s, Day worked closely with fellow activist Peter Maurin to establish the Catholic Worker Movement, a pacifist movement that combines direct aid for the poor and homeless with nonviolent direct action on their behalf. She practiced civil disobedience, which led to additional arrests in 1955, 1957, and in 1973 at the age of seventy-five.
As part of the Catholic Worker Movement, Day co-founded the Catholic Worker newspaper in 1933, and served as its editor from 1933 until her death in 1980. In this newspaper, Day advocated the Catholic economic theory of distributism, which she considered a third way between capitalism and socialism. Pope Benedict XVI used her conversion story as an example of how to "journey towards faith ... in a secularized environment." In an address before the United States Congress, Pope Francis included her in a list of four exemplary Americans who "buil[t] a better future"
Peter first met Dorothy Day in December 1932. She had just returned from Washington, D.C., where she had covered the Hunger March for Commonweal and America magazines. At the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1932, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Day had prayed for inspiration for her future work. She came back to her New York apartment to find Maurin awaiting her in the kitchen. He had read some of her articles and decided to look her up and exchange ideas with her.
He suggested she start a newspaper, since she was a trained journalist, to "bring the best of Catholic thought to the man in the street in the language of the man in the street". Maurin initially proposed the name Catholic Radical for the paper that was distributed as the Catholic Worker beginning May 1, 1933, during the depths of the Great Depression.
His ideas served as the inspiration for the creation of "houses of hospitality" for the poor, for the agrarian endeavors of the Catholic Worker farms, and the regular "roundtable discussions for the clarification of thought" that began taking place shortly after the publication of the first issue of The Catholic Worker which is considered a Christian Anarchist publication.