Margaret Hamilton's Winning Essay

A Beacon of Social Justice: Dorothy Day

No one has ever mistaken me for a religious person. I was raised in the sort of Catholic family that goes to mass once a year, if that. As a teen slowly realizing the hardships of the world, and perceiving institution’s role, I developed a strong resentment toward religion. During my sophomore year of Catholic high-school, my Social Justice teacher played a video about the life of a journalist and social activist named Dorothy Day, whose devout Catholicism, and fervent support of her converted-to faith, were all I needed to harden my judgment, and close my ears to her story. Five years later, a junior at Bellarmine University, I was given another chance. Enrolled in a theology course—Women’s Experience, Women’s Faith—I vaguely recalled that seemingly-unimportant high-school memory as my professor started this day’s lesson—Dorothy Day. After only a short discussion of her life, her dreams, and the influence she gave to the world, I realized how wrong my initial judgment had been. Day is a true inspiration.

Day did not convert to Catholicism until later in life, after her daughter was born, but she always fought for human rights and social justice. She was inspired by anarchist ideology, but never felt it contradicted with her spirituality. Day was driven to relieve the plight of the poor. She opened the first House of Hospitality in 1933, a place to help those in need of food and shelter. Today, these houses exist across the world. Day also devoted herself to the women’s suffrage movement, and was jailed six times protesting for this and other causes. Adamant against all violence, she once led a ten-day antiwar fast in Rome.

Day inspires me to devote my life to others—I hope to be a school counselor. Last year, I interned for the Louisville Restorative Justice Committee. The group was just getting their feet off the ground, and I was able to serve as their first intern. Although movements such as these take time, community support is growing. Restorative Justice professes that every member of society, whatever situation, has the right to a healthy, productive existence. Just as Day believed, society is responsible for uplifting the marginalized and downtrodden. Whether poor, homeless, outcast, or drug-addicted, Day accepted everyone into her home, and gave her all to help them. Her bravery and boldness encourages me to stand up for what I believe, and to help those that cannot help themselves.

Everyone in this world has a voice, but too few are heard. Dorothy Day was one of the few that listened. She fought alongside them, a selfless warrior for the rights of others. Even after death, her message still shines as a beacon, leading us toward her vision social justice.