WeWalk: Behind the Scenes of Opening the Way

Opening the Way is a walking tour celebrating women's history in downtown Manhattan. It is a multifaceted new project developed by the award-winning nonprofit organization Women's eNews. The walk honors the achievements of women such as Margaret Sanger, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Ida B. Wells -- 21 women in all. This blog has been created to update fans of the walk on its exciting developments and expansion. Please join us in revitalizing history that has been ignored or forgotten!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dorothy Day: A New York Religious Icon

One week ago marked the 30-year anniversary of the death of Dorothy Day, prompting several events to celebrate her life and participation in the Catholic Worker Movement in the early to mid-twentieth century. Maureen McKew, a blogger  for the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office, wrote a thought-provoking piece on Friday calling her a "peace activist and a tireless advocate for poor and powerless people," and comparing her to two other female saints from New York -- St. Elizabeth Seton and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini -- who, like Day, were "women who persevered when authorities did not recognize the urgency and value of their missions."

Dorothy Day was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1897. After living in San Francisco and Chicago, she moved back to New York City in 1916, where she worked as a journalist and activist, supporting radical movements such as socialism, civil rights, and women's rights. She was even arrested in front of the White House in 1917 when she participated in a group protest for women's suffrage. Day grew to admire the Catholic Church and converted, baptizing herself and her daughter in 1927 at Our Lady Help of Christians church in Staten Island, at the cost of her marriage. (This same parish just released an addition to its school in honor of Day on her anniversary last week.) With fellow activist Peter Maurin, she established the pacifist Catholic Worker Movement in 1933 -- a newspaper and movement that aimed to combine direct aid for the poor and homeless with direct, nonviolent action on their behalf, and whose influence continues today.

Cardinal John O'Connor introduced Dorothy Day as a candidate for sainthood in 2000, emphasizing her as a "modern day devoted daughter of the Church, a daughter who shunned personal aggrandizement and wished that her work, and the work of those who labored at her side on behalf of the poor, might be the hallmark of her life rather than her own self." The Dorothy Day Guild, formed in 2004 as a step towards canonization, offers her writings and information on her life, as well as volunteer opportunities with the guild's headquarters in New York.

Opening the Way recognizes the contributions of women in the religious arena and honors two such women on its walking tour -- Sojourner Truth and Barbara Ruckle Heck. Furthermore, Reverend Violet Dease Lee, Assistant Pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Manhattan, and Reverend Katie Lee Crane, Minister of the First Parish of Sudbury in Massachusetts, will both appear as voices in our virtual tour. Opening the Way will continue highlighting the importance of women's contributions in religion.

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