A Faithful Striving

The Diaries of Dorothy Day

In her 1952 spiritual autobiography, The Long Loneliness, Dorothy Day (1897–1980) described her early habit of keeping a diary: “When I was a child, my sister and I kept notebooks; recording happiness made it last longer, we felt, and recording sorrow dramatized it and took away its bitterness; and often we settled some problem which beset us, even while we wrote about it.” She maintained this habit, though somewhat irregularly, throughout her life.

Sometimes her reflections were prompted by happiness, sometimes by sorrow, but mostly her diary entries were an expression of her intense interest in life and her responses to what was happening around her.

Unfortunately, the diaries from her early life were lost. So we have no contemporary record of the years described in her memoirs or her earlier (and much-regretted) autobiographical novel. That part of her life included a mostly happy childhood in New York, Oakland, California, and Chicago; a brief college career; a return to New York in 1916, which put her in touch with many leading radical journalists and activists of the day; her arrest with suffragists in Washington and her friendship with an assorted lot of socialists, anarchists, and literary bohemians; her association with the playwright Eugene O’Neill; an unhappy love affair; and what she...

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About the Author

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher of Orbis Books, the author of All Saints, and the editor of The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day (Marquette University Press).