Between Dorothy and God

'There was never yet an uninteresting life," wrote Mark Twain. This statement could not be more true about Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker and lifelong advocate for the poor.

Entertaining Angels, the soon-to-be-released cinematic portrayal of her life, focuses on the 20-year span between 1917 and 1937. Dorothy is introduced as an ardent socialist and suffragette. She's young and idealistic, while smoking cigarettes and talking tough.

Dorothy's life progresses from protesting for women's rights at a demonstration to arguing against social injustices at the newsroom of the The Call, the socialist newspaper where she works. She hangs out at Hell Hole, a smoky Bohemian saloon, bantering with bawdy friends and colleagues, including playwright Eugene O'Neill. And an ill-fated love affair with Lionel Moise ends in a heart-wrenching abortion and depression.

Then Dorothy turns to a simpler life, living in a small beach house on Staten Island. This healing period includes a common-law marriage to biologist Forster Batterham, and the birth of their daughter, Tamar. Interspersed throughout this time is a growing attraction to, and conflict with, the Catholic Church. While living on Staten Island, she meets Sister Aloysius, a dedicated disciple of Christ who ministers to the poor and needy. The relationship between these two develops as each recognizes the intelligent, compassionate, and street-smart woman in the other.

Dorothy becomes more involved in the church, while continuing to care about the plight of society's outcasts. She finally converts to Catholicism, has her daughter baptized, and is baptized herself. Dorothy's conversion ultimately leads to the disintegration of her relationship with Batterham and her return to New York City.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1996
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