The Center has a special focus on the life and legacy of Dorothy Day.
The Dorothy Day Center for Study and Promotion of Social Catholicism is a resource for the campus, our local community and the worldwide Lasallian network on the Catholic social tradition. Its goals embody the Manhattan College's Lasallian mission, which includes social justice, faith in the presence of God, and concern for the poor.
By Julie Leininger-Pycior, Professor Emeritus of History
Dorothy Day was the leader of the Catholic Worker movement, founded in 1933. To this day, Catholic Workers live in radical solidarity with the poor and protest injustice. Day has been recommended by the Archdiocese of New York and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as a candidate for sainthood.
Dorothy Day was born in Brooklyn on November 8, 1897. Preferring radical activism to classroom discussion, she dropped out of the University of Illinois and headed to New York City where she reported for socialist periodicals. She settled in a Staten Island bungalow with biologist Forster Batterham. Her partner believed neither in marriage nor religion, however, so when she had their baby Tamar baptized, the relationship ended. Meantime she prayed, “Where were the Catholics?” after witnessing Communists advocate for the unemployed. Soon after, she met philosopher Peter Maurin, an adherent of Catholic social justice teachings, and she began the Catholic Worker newspaper, maintaining the movement’s pacifism even during World War II.
Her postwar protests against nuclear armament were unpopular, but later, growing opposition to the Vietnam War reinvigorated the Catholic Worker movement. (The Catholic Church has condemned most wars since the Cold War era, one measure of her continued influence.) In later life she continued attending daily Mass and pursued her activism, including being jailed alongside striking farmworkers a few years before her death. Her daughter Tamar Hennessy would eventually make Day a grandmother of nine children. Over the course of her life Day authored seven books. In her autobiography, she wrote, “The final word is love... We know him in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread... We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes in community.” Day died on November 29, 1980 -- and is buried in Pleasant Plains on Staten Island.