DOROTHY DAY: A Biography by William D. Miller

DOROTHY DAY: A Biography

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Long, loving, but basically tedious. Miller (History, Marquette) told the story of the Catholic Worker Movement in A Harsh and Dreadful Love (1970), and he now turns to its founder and central personality. The problem is that holiness and heroic self-sacrifice--as with Mother Theresa, and others--don't always make for dramatic interest. Dorothy Day (1897-1980) devoted her life to the poor, fought for social justice, protested against nuclear madness, and raised the moral consciousness of all sorts of people, both inside and outside the Catholic Church. But after a turbulent. ""Augustinian"" youth (two affairs, an abortion, an illegitimate daughter), Day abruptly converted to Catholicism in 1927. Five years later she met the eccentric French peasant-prophet Peter Maurin; they launched the CW; and for the rest of her long life she simply slaved for the cause. Day was neither a fascinating character nor a charismatic leader nor an innovative thinker. She was a nurturing matriarch with restless energy and total dedication. She had immense reserves of compassion and practically no sense of humor. For anyone who ever met Dorothy Day (and there are thousands) or read The Catholic Worker (especially her chatty column, ""On Pilgrimage""), Miller's account will be a welcome portrait not just of her but of the host of intensely pious radicals who clustered about her (such as Roger La Porte, who burned himself to death in front of the UN building in 1965 to stir up opposition to the Vietnam War). But the outsider will surely be bored by the endless details of Day's not very eventful life as well as by her sometimes unimaginative orthodoxy (she once accused herself in her journal of failing to show proper respect to Senator Joseph McCarthy). An honest job but unrelievedly provincial.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1982
Publisher: Harper & Row