Catholic activist Dorothy Day (1897-1980) is best known for founding, with Peter Maurin, the Catholic Worker Movement. The Movement began in the early 1930s, growing out of Day’s long interest in labor and the laboring classes.
While the Catholic Worker Movement is less well-known today than it was at midcentury, it and Day’s name retained significance for Catholics well into the 1980s. I know of no pointed study of her impact or popularity, among Catholics and otherwise. But my sense is that her work and name became less important, or was transformed into something less jarring, as the “new orthodoxy” arose with conservative Catholics in the 1990s. That is not to say that First Things-style Catholics neglected or ignored her; her name has appeared in almost 70 FT pieces since 2000. Still, it is fairly intuitive that Day’s long and deep interest in labor would resonate more positively in an age when that topic was more central—when labor unionization was more prominent and labor was thought of as an important class of American society.
Day’s long connection with labor and her interest in class differences drew me to her writings. I was surprised, however, to also find in her works an interest in great books. Continue reading