|Dorothy Day showing the prison uniform she wore, autographed|
by other women who were arrested for picketing on behalf of
the Anthony Amendment and then went on a hunger strike and
were force-fed. This was the Turning Point for woman suffrage.
She was also one of the 40 women arrested for picketing the White House in 1917 and then going on a hunger strike in prison.
These 40 women, who included Inez Milholland's sister Vida Milholland, were inspired by the death of Inez Milholland and turned the tide of public opinion by refusing to give up their fight after being force-fed like geese, a practice that is properly classified as torture.
Hilda van Stockum and Dorothy Day shared being writers and being converts to Catholicism within about a decade of each other (Day in 1927, van Stockum to Anglo-Catholicism in 1935 and Roman Catholicism in 1939).
I have, as my mother's executor, the letters sent to my mother by Dorothy Day in 1949 and 1951. I am publishing them here in the interest of obtaining information in return on the letters sent by my mother to Day and would welcome information on where they might be found–possibly Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisc.? The three letters from Dorothy Day are dated:
- 1949, Feb. 3, DD to HvS
- 1951, March?, DD to HvS
- 1951, Dec. 20, DD to HvS
Dorothy Day's Earliest Years
They all moved to Oakland and survived the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, but her father lost his job. The Day family migrated to Chicago for a new job, with the family moving into a tenement flat on Chicago's South Side. It was a step down in the world. When John Day was appointed sports editor of a Chicago newspaper, the Day family moved into a comfortable house on the North Side.
I was only eighteen, so I wavered between my allegiance to Socialism, Syndicalism (the I.W.W.'s) and Anarchism. When I read Tolstoy I was an Anarchist. My allegiance to The Call kept me a Socialist, although a left-wing one, and my Americanism inclined me to the I.W.W. movement.
- Eugene O'Neill, whom she later credited with having produced "an intensification of the religious sense that was in me”.
- Mike Gold, a radical writer who later became a prominent Communist.
- Anna Louise Strong and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Communists. Flynn became the head of the Communist Party USA.
- Lionel Moise, with whom she had an unhappy affair ending in an abortion.
- Berkeley Tobey, whom she married in a civil ceremony and then spent a year with in Europe.
I thought I was a free and emancipated young woman and found out I wasn't at all ... [F]reedom is just a modernity gown, a new trapping that we women affect to capture the man we want.
A new lover, Forster Batterham, an activist and biologist, who joined her there on weekends. Day, who had thought herself sterile following her abortion, was elated to find she was pregnant in mid-1925, while Batterham dreaded fatherhood. While she visited her mother in Florida and separated from Batterham for several months, she intensified her exploration of Catholicism.
When she returned to Staten Island, Batterham was alienated by her increasing devotion, attendance at Mass, and religious reading. Soon after the birth of their daughter Tamar Teresa, on March 4, 1926, Day encountered a local Catholic Religious Sister, Sister Aloysia, S.C., and with her help educated herself in the Catholic faith and had her baby baptized in July 1927. After a fight in late December, Day refused to allow Batterham to return. On December 28, 1927 she had herself baptized with Sister Aloysia as her godparent.
In summer of 1929, Day accepted a job writing film dialogue for Pathé Motion Pictures, left Staten Island and moved to Los Angeles with Tamar. A few months later, following the 1929 stock market crash, her contract was not renewed.
She returned to New York via Mexico and a visit to her mother in Florida. Day supported herself as a journalist, writing a gardening column for the local paper, the Staten Island Advance and features articles and book reviews for several Catholic publications, like Commonweal.
I could write, I could protest, to arouse the conscience, but where was the Catholic leadership in the gathering of bands of men and women together, for the actual works of mercy that the comrades had always made part of their technique in reaching the workers?
Years later Day described how Maurin also broadened her knowledge by bringing "a digest of the writings of Kropotkin one day, calling my attention especially to Fields, Factories, and Workshops".
The Catholic Worker movement started when the first issue of the Catholic Worker appeared in the first year of FDR's presidency, on May 1, 1933, priced at one cent, and published continuously since then. It was aimed at those suffering the most in the depths of the Great Depression, "those who think there is no hope for the future", and announced to them that
the Catholic Church has a social program... there are men of God who are working not only for their spiritual but for their material welfare.
The Daily Worker responded by mocking the Catholic Worker for its charity work and for sympathizing with landlords who evicted tenants. In this fight, the Catholic hierarchy supported Day. Commonweal said of Day: "There are few laymen in this country who are so completely conversant with Communist propaganda and its exponents."
Who of us if he were attacked now would not react quickly and humanly against such attack? Would we love our brother who strikes us? Of all at The Catholic Worker how many would not instinctively defend himself with any forceful means in his power?
In 1938, she published an account of the transformation of her political activism into religiously motivated activism in From Union Square to Rome. She said:
What I want to bring out in this book is a succession of events that led me to His feet, glimpses of Him that I received through many years which made me feel the vital need of Him and of religion.
We must make a start. We must renounce war as an instrument of policy. . . . Even as I speak to you I may be guilty of what some men call treason. But we must reject war. . . . You young men should refuse to take up arms. Young women tear down the patriotic posters. And all of you–young and old–put away your flags.
We are still pacifists. Our manifesto is the Sermon on the Mount, which means that we will try to be peacemakers. Speaking for many of our conscientious objectors, we will not participate in armed warfare or in making munitions, or by buying government bonds to prosecute the war, or in urging others to these efforts. But neither will we be carping in our criticism. We love our country and we love our President.
A Cardinal, ill-advised, exercised so overwhelming a show of force against the union of poor working men. There is a temptation of the devil to that most awful of all wars, the war between the clergy and the laity.
[H]e is our chief priest and confessor; he is our spiritual leader–of all of us who live here in New York. But he is not our ruler.Correspondence with Hilda van Stockum
[Peter Maurin Farm]
[469 Bloomingdale Rd.]
[Pleasant Plains, Staten Island, N.Y.]Feb 3, 1949 [Feast of] St. Blaise
Dear Hilda [in Montreal] –
After your so good and friendly letter I must call you by your Christian name. It was good to get your generous letter and we would be delighted to get the books and I know my daughter would too. Her address is Ridge Road, Westminster, Md. Our farm address–where I am most often–is Peter Maurin Farm, 469 Bloomingdale Rd., Pleasant Plains, Staten Island, N.Y.
Do you know our friends–Dr. Karl Stern, 4137 Marlowe Ave., Montreal? They too have children. You would love them. [We visited with them in Westmount. I remember them well. Several Marlin children became friends with the Stern children in Montreal in 1949-1951.- JTM] [Comment from Olga Marlin: I remember mother talking about Dorothy Day, as she did about many other people. She became friends with Karl Stern and often talked about him.]
My daughter is going to have her fifth child in June. Her husband is now working at the Newman Book Shop until 9 at night which leaves her much alone, out in the country and still with no conveniences.
When your books come I will read them too. I love children's books and would love to write one some day. Right now I am engaged on a story of my life which Harpers asked for after reading On Pilgrimage. [Her autobiography was published and is still in print - JTM] I'm having an awful struggle getting it done. How do you write with 6 children?
Have you heard of the Grail? Started by two Dutch women in this country? A marvelous school for girls.
My son-in-law, having no formal education, read all of the Chesterton & Belloc to get their education. A good idea.
Got to rush now. Too many people. Write again.
Sincerely in Christ,
[Peter Maurin Farm, 469 Bloomingdale Rd.]
[Pleasant Plains, Staten Island, N.Y.]1951 [March?]
Dear Hilda [in Ireland] –
Thank you for your most interesting letters from Ireland. Just back myself from a 4 mos. trip to the coast and south, and return to 10 degrees above zero and rheumatism in my hands.
How do you ever get so much writing done, and such good writing. I'm trying mainly to finish a St. Therese book. I am too attached to people.
My daughter's children have been sick with mumps, & the oldest with pneumonia. She is 8 this April. Tamar will have her 6th in Aug.–6 under 9. Quite a handful. And noisy. All in a 4 room house! Poverty indeed.
However if we can raise the money to put on one big room and porch it will do, as they have 4 acres around them and the house only cost $6,000. Housing is still a problem here. One of the worst parts of poverty is the necessity to be always scheming, planning, figuring, how to get bills paid.
That's voluntary poverty too, altho we would like to think romantically about it as freedom from care.
Pray for us, and God bless you.
P.S. I speak as to a kindred soul. My royalty check went in 10 minutes.
[Peter Maurin Farm, 469 Bloomingdale Rd.]
[Pleasant Plains, Staten Island, N.Y.]
PAXDec. 20, 1951
Dear Hilda –Thank you for your lovely letter of Sept 30! Please excuse delay. I've been travelling about the country & am not half done yet. What a life you have! I envy you living in Ireland near the sea.Yes, you must come to one our retreats. They are going better than ever this year. Amos [?] became a Catholic as a result of one.Tamar [Day's daughter] is having a hard winter with her little flock. Too shut in. Their house is too small. They are fearfully overcrowded. A big family needs a big house to be happy.I'm writing a new book on The Little Flower and I'm hoping it sells well enough for me to help her build a big extra living room in back & a porch on the front. She lives in real poverty, poor child. Pray for her. I'm enjoying this trip very much. It is both work and vacation. There is so much to write about – I could fill two Catholic Workers!
Thank you very much for writing me. A Happy Christmas and New Year to you all
Day's autobiography, The Long Loneliness, was published in 1952 with illustrations by the Quaker Fritz Eichenberg.
I am most of all interested in the religious life of the people and so must not be on the side of a regime that favors the extirpation of religion. On the other hand, when that regime is bending all its efforts to make a good life for the people, a naturally good life (on which grace can build) one cannot help but be in favor of the measures taken.
Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.
Solzhenitsin lives in poverty and has been expelled from the Writers Union and cannot be published in his own country. He is harassed continually, and recently his small cottage in the country has been vandalized and papers destroyed, and a friend of his who went to bring some of his papers to him was seized and beaten.
I was moved to see the names of the Americans, Ruthenberg and Bill Haywood, on the Kremlin Wall in Roman letters, and the name of Jack Reed (with whom I worked on the old Masses), in Cyrillac characters in a flower-covered grave.The individuals mentioned are:
- Ruthenberg was C. E. Ruthenberg, founder of the Communist Party USA.
- Bill Haywood was a key figure in the IWW.
- Jack Reed was the journalist better known as John Reed, author of Ten Days That Shook the World. [JTM: According to Max Eastman in his book Great Companions, Funding for Jack Reed's trip to Moscow was raised by Inez Milholland's widower, Eugen Boissevain, who approached Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, a close friend both of Eugen's late wife Inez Milholland and former employer of Eugen's sister-in-law Anne Boissevain.]
If one had to choose a single individual to symbolize the best in the aspiration and action of the American Catholic community during the last forty years, that one person would certainly be Dorothy Day."
- Her body was buried in the Cemetery of the Resurrection on Staten Island, just a few blocks from the beachside cottage where she first became interested in Catholicism. Her gravestone is inscribed with the words "Deo Gratias".
- Her body of writings, including letters, was given to Marquette University along with many records of the Catholic Worker movement. The Catholic Worker, which had a circulation of more than 100,000 for some years, reported a circulation of under 30,000 in 2013.
The nonviolent witness of such figures as Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King has had profound impact upon the life of the Church in the United States.
- The unanimous vote of the U.S. bishops at their 2012 fall assembly to pursue her sainthood cause.
- Her mention by Pope Benedict XVI in the final two weeks of his Papacy in 2013, as a model of conversion to the Catholic faith.
- Pope Francis in his address to Congress expressing his admiration for her, calling her "a great American".