2016-2017 Dorothy Day’s America

2016-2017 Seminar: Dorothy Day’s America

Dorothy Day

At the dawn of the twentieth-century, the Catholic Church expanded in the United States for the same reasons it had over the past century—it was the faith of immigrants.  By then, however, the church was already well ensconced and ready to greet them.  Our course will begin right here…with Catholicism at a critical moment, grappling as it was with modernity.  New ways of thinking accompanied tectonic shifts in technology, culture, politics, warfare, and society forced the church to confront challenges to its orthodoxy.  Dorothy Day was born into this moment, though not Catholic (she did not convert until 1927).  This class will explore American Catholicism from the multiple angles of religious, political, cultural, and social history.  We will walk through the twentieth century in the footsteps of Dorothy Day: her life, career, and legacy will serve as our prism.   As the founder of the Catholic Worker newspaper and movement, Day left her strongest imprint on the church’s social justice tradition.  Topics to considered will include: Catholics in peace and war, labor politics, and the Catholic “life” doctrine.  In addition to the weekly seminars, the Fall semester will include guest speakers and field trips.  The Spring semester is devoted to independent research on seminar papers.


Michelle Nickerson is Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director of the History Department where she teaches U.S. women’s, gender, urban, and political history.  She has authored two books and is currently writing about the Camden 28, a group of Catholic radicals arrested for raiding a draft board office in opposition to the Vietnam War.

Amelia Serafine is a PhD Candidate in the History Department. Her dissertation focuses on women and gender in the twentieth century, particularly women’s emotional communities. She has also published work exploring the intersection of romance and politics for women during the Civil War.