November 8, 2010
As a young woman in the 1920s, DOROTHY DAY (1897-1980) lived the Bohemian life in Greenwich Village. She palled around with Eugene O’Neill, took lovers, and had an abortion. She was an ardent suffragist and Wobbly, and an “anarchopacifist” (according to her New York Times obituary) who believed in free love and fought for workers’ rights. In 1927, after the birth of her daughter, Day became a devout Catholic. But though most of her fellow radicals viewed the Church as an institution upholding the status quo, Day saw a framework for social justice. She founded the Catholic Worker movement, which fed and clothed the poor in “houses of hospitality” across the nation, in 1933. And she continued to oppose war and promote civil disobedience: in the 1950s, she was jailed for refusing to take part in an air-raid drill; in the ’70s, she protested against the war in Vietnam. Day acknowledged that when it came to labor and politics, “I am inclined to be sympathetic to the left, but when it comes to the Catholic Church, I am far to the right”; she supported orthodox Catholic views on divorce, birth control, and abortion. Even so, Day’s devotion to “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable,” in the words of a citation bestowed upon her by Notre Dame University, is remarkable in a world where the phrase “Christian radical” is too often an oxymoron.
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READ MORE about members of the Hardboiled Generation (1894-1903).