S+L logo
Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty
by Kate Hennessy
Series Page
Book Description




Dorothy Day (1897-1980) was a prominent Catholic, writer, social activist, and co-founder of a movement dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor. Her life has been revealed through her own writings as well as the work of historians, theologians, and academics. What has been missing until now is a more personal account from the point of view of someone who knew her well. Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty is a frank and reflective, heartfelt and humorous portrayal as written by her granddaughter, Kate Hennessy. The book challenges ideas of plaster saints and of saintly women. Day is an unusual candidate for sainthood. Before her conversion, she lived what she called a “disorderly life,” during which she had an abortion and then gave birth to a child out of wedlock. After her conversion, she was both an obedient servant and a rigorous challenger of the Church. She was a prolific writer whose books are still in print and widely read. While tenderly rendered, this account will show her as driven to do good but dogmatic, loving but judgmental, in particular with regards to her only daughter, Tamar. She was also full of humor and laughter, and could light up any room she entered. This thoroughly researched and intimate biography provides a valuable and nuanced portrait of an undersung and provocative American woman. (Scribner)

Published by Scribner

Purchase at Ben McNally Books
366 Bay Street
Toronto, ON
M5H 4B2
416-361-0032
My Take
This intimate story of Dorothy Day and her closest family members paints a complex and paradoxical picture of the modern-day saint widely known for her tireless and magnanimous work for social justice. Kate Hennessy has done something remarkable: she’s changed the way I understand writing about the saints. Simultaneously joy-filled and tragic; breathtaking in its honesty; absolutely remarkable.
About the Author
Kate Hennessy is a writer and the youngest of Dorothy Day’s nine grandchildren. She has worked in collaboration with the photographer Vivian Cherry on “Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker: The Miracle of Our Continuance,” and her writing has appeared in Best American Travel Writing. Kate attended New York University and the School for International Training in Vermont. She has traveled and worked around the world, including as a counselor at an international summer camp in the former USSR, and as an ESL Teacher in Guatemala and India. She has also worked as a curator at a small Vermont museum and has walked 750 kilometers on el Camino de Santiago in Spain. Kate lives in Vermont with her husband.
“Many years from now, when, presumably, Dorothy Day has been added to the canon of saints, readers will look to Kate Hennessy’s stunning work to be reminded that holy people are actual human beings. Through Day’s relationship with her daughter Tamar, she emerges in her full complex humanity, struggling like any parent, astonishingly insightful one moment, oblivious the next. Ultimately, Kate Hennessy’s book tells the universal story of how hard it is fully to know the people we love the most, of the struggle to find forgiveness and healing, of the many forms of conversion, and of the many aspects of that beauty—as Dostoevsky wrote—that will save the world.”

Robert Ellsberg
— Editor of “The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day”