Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker
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Fifty years ago, Dorothy Day sold the first issue of the Catholic Worker in New York, and one of the most remarkable newspapers in American history was born. It advocated something revolutionary for 1933 America: the union of Catholicism with a passionate concern for social justice and with personal activism.
Today, the Catholic Worker, still a monthly with some 100,000 subscribers, remains a leader in pacifism and social justice activism. The dean of American journalism historians, Edwin Emery, recently acknowledged the extremely significant role of the Catholic Worker in the history of advocacy and religious journalism.
Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker examines Dorothy Day's vital role as editor, publisher, and chief writer—the person who guided the paper's content and tone—until her death in 1980 at the age of 83. A devout Catholic, Dorothy Day never criticized the Church's teachings—only its failure to live up to them. Her determined leadership gave the Catholic Worker its consistency and continuity through even those periods in American history most hostile to its message.
Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker is the first full-length, scholarly study of the newspaper. Drawing primarily on the Dorothy Day-Catholic Worker Collection at Marquette University and on interviews with former Catholic Worker editors from the 1930s on, it traces the paper's history, highlighting crisis points such as the Spanish Civil War and World War II, when individuals selling the Catholic Worker were sometimes beaten in the streets. During the McCarthy era, the Korean War, and the war in Vietnam, the Catholic Worker maintained its commitment to peace and social justice. A final chapter links the Catholic bishops' recent pastoral letter on nuclear warfare with the peace leadership provided by the Catholic Worker.
Nancy L. Roberts is Assistant Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.