Teen Vogue, “Dorothy Day, Cofounder of the Catholic Worker Movement, Was a Radical Activist”

OG History is a Teen Vogue series where we unearth history not told through a white cisheteropatriarchal lens.

November 27, 2020

Dorothy Day, cofounder of the Catholic Worker Movement, lifelong radical and anarchist, and prolific journalist, died on November 29, 1980, at age 83 — 40 years ago this week. Until her final days, Day was a committed advocate for social justice and pacifism.

Day was born in 1897 to conservative parents, one of five children, in Brooklyn, New York. Later in her childhood, the family moved to San Francisco for her father’s job, and — following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which destroyed the newspaper office where her father worked — the family moved again. During her adolescent and teenage years in Chicago, Day was fascinated by Catholicism; her parents weren’t practicing, but she found herself animated by the words of the Gospel and their call to center the poor and marginalized. At the same time, she read voraciously, and was especially a fan of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, which exposed the dire conditions for Chicago meatpacking workers and immigrants.

“[Day] was a very rebellious young woman, which was an extraordinary thing for her time in terms of coming from a conservative Republican family,” says John Loughery, co-author of the recently released biography Dorothy Day: Dissenting Voice of the American Century. “I think she felt, in a political sense, invigorated by the world.”

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