What Dorothy Day might teach bloggers

Dorothy Day once described herself as “a journalist and a diarist pure and simple” as opposed to a writer of books. As a young girl, she kept a diary and later became a journalist to pay the bills. I would like to think, based on her approach to writing, that she would be a blogger if still alive today.

Dorothy Day CNA US Catholic News 11 29 10

And what’s more, she would have some good advice for bloggers who have tragically reduced themselves to reviewers of books, or worse, evangelists for their own books. I have always seen writing, and by extension blogging, as a means to provide a voice for the voiceless and turn the eyes of the world away from the trivial towards the meaningful and the essential. There is a moral mandate in blogging that was evident when we started blogging over a decade ago, but has been drowned out.

Dorothy Day can help us writers regrasp that vision.

According to The Moral Vision of Dorothy Day: A Feminist Perspective by June O’Connor, which I am now reading, her purposes for writing were many. I have reformatted them for this blog post and also put a new slant on them with view to blogging:

Purposes in writing [and blogging] from Dorothy Day:

1. to make known the experiences of the inarticulate

2. to spotlight the cracks in the social system

3. to disclose human suffering so that action might be taken to prevent and alleviate it

4. to discuss and clarify ideas about how to improve the social order

5. to argue on behalf of the ideas of anarchism, voluntary poverty, and pacifism in contrast to prevailing social and cultural preferences for institutionalized expressions of power, materialism and militarism.

Hey bloggers, read this and fall in love with Dorothy Day:

“Recording happiness made it last longer, we felt, and recording sorrow dramatized it and took away its bitterness.; often we settled some problem which beset us even while we wrote about it.” Dorothy Day

“Because Day’s journalistic writings were intended to reflect and to serve direct action, the bulk of her works – including whole books – were written between activities, often as fragments, No attempt was made to cast her prose in elegant style, Yet she loved to write and mused in one entry that in light of all the pages given to ideas, theories, and efforts to understand, she found relief and relaxation in just writing about facts, in simply giving an account of the her day.” June O’Conner, The Moral Vision of Dorothy Day

Related on TSK: Revisiting the 1930’s and Dorothy Day


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • This is wonderfully thought-provoking. I have had a fairly meaningless personal blog for years, and now a new blog in support of my home business, but I wonder: does it really matter? I rarely meet those five goals, I’m afraid, and don’t really know how to get there from here.. but at least I know the direction I’d like to go. Thanks for this post. 🙂

  • Mike Crowl says:

    Interesting use of the royal ‘we’ in the quote… I wonder why she felt it necessary to keep herself at a slight distance from what she was writing – especially in view of her goals?

  • Andrew says:

    i think she was identifying more with other writers in that quote. one element of her writing that was noted in the book was her subjectivity and personal involvement in her subjects – which is something i believe separates bloggers from journalists.

  • Jeremy Myers says:

    I must confess that until this blog post, I had never heard of Dorothy Day. But I like her already!
    I’m relieved to hear that her writing was written between activities, as fragments. I guess there’s hope for me!

  • Megan says:

    Great post!
    Dorothy Day sounds like the sort of person I would want for a mentor if she were still around…and she encourages me to keep writing, even though my audience is currently small!
    “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops [or on your blog ;].” –Matthew 10:27

  • Andrew says:

    ah – my oversight not to put a link in the post.
    Dorothy Day was an anarchist/catholic/activist/journalist who was part of the Catholic Worker movement among the marginalized which started in the 1930’s. Abbie Hoffman called her the “first hippie”.

  • Joanna says:

    Yes encourages me too. My blog I think is quite fragmented but there is a lot of social comment in it. It also encourages me to keep writing my Masters thesis as I hope to be a part of helping to resolve a conflict over wild boar management – on the face of it nothing to do with the poor until you realise it is small farmers and those who practice subsistence farming who suffer the most.

  • Nadel says:

    Thanks for sharing this informative post.

  • shane says:

    hi just like you have a brilliant blog and will certaintly be bookmarking this thankyou

  • brambonius says:

    Wow… Some people would disagree with that fifth one, even a lot of Christians… But for me it’s a good wake-up-call…

  • A.J. Swoboda says:

    Andrew…yes, yes, yes! Blogging must go beyond self-promotion. Blogging is the new Wittenburg door. It allows nobodies the chance to share a message that can’t go through the normal channels of media and communication.

  • Dyfed says:

    Great post as usual.

  • Jessica says:

    I love Dorothy Day! I kind of geeked out when I saw this link on another blog. For me, she’s the perfect blend of writer and doer–she lived a good story that she them wrote about. I think her call to give a voice to the voiceless is timely and needed. Thanks for sharing!

  • Andrew out of curiosity is this in response to the blog wars going on between Mars Hill and it’s former members/pastors? Just curious? I think you’re right I’m just wondering since about 4 different blogs have popped up in less than 2 weeks.

  • Andrew says:

    perceptive question but no, i just happened to be reading the book that day.
    i might respond to the “masculine christianity” subject in a few days
    Funny thing is the Obama mentioned Dorothy Day in his speech later the same day as my post. Big question is . . .
    Does Obama read my blog???????
    Probably not.

  • Jason says:

    This was so on point. A good reminder.

  • Anne says:

    Thank you for your insights! I did my masters thesis on the prophetic voice of Dorothy and due to her commitment to simplicity have wondered on occasion whether she would have adopted the use of the computer and adapted to technology. Good perspective that gives me more to ponder!

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