Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty

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Kate Hennessy

Date: April 19, 2017

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Co-sponsored by the Department of Continuing Education (STM), the Theology Department, the Volunteer and Service Learning Center, PULSE, the Catholic Studies Program, and the Church in the 21st Century Center.


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 (Scribner, 2017) is a frank and reflective, heartfelt and humorous portrayal as written by her granddaughter, Kate Hennessy.

Speaker Bio

Kate Hennessy

Kate Hennessy is a writer and the youngest of Dorothy Day’s nine grandchildren. Her work has been included in Best American Travel Writing, and she is the author of Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved By Beauty: An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother and, in collaboration with the photographer Vivian Cherry, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker: The Miracle of our Continuance. Kate divides her time between Ireland and Vermont.

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Kate Hennessy, author and youngest granddaughter of Dorothy Day, read from her recent book Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved By Beauty (An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother). Following the reading, Hennessy spoke with audience members about her grandmother's legacy on the Catholic social justice movement and Hennessy's life.

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Boisi event

Photos by MTS photography

Event Recap

On April 19, 2017, the Boisi Center hosted Kate Hennessy, a writer and the youngest granddaughter of Dorothy Day. The event was co-sponsored by the Department of Continuing Education (STM), the Theology Department, the Volunteer and Service Learning Center, PULSE, the Catholic Studies Program, and the Church in the 21st Century Center.

Hennessy’s talk focused on her new book, Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved By Beauty. Hennessy gave a brief background on her grandmother’s life as a leading figure in the founding of the Catholic Worker Movement. Hennessy emphasized the complexity, richness, and contradictions of Dorothy Day’s life that made it challenging to tell her story. Personal relationships also complicated Hennessy’s writing process, as she felt a responsibility to everyone she wrote about. It was difficult for her to navigate the dynamics between herself, her mother, and her grandmother.

Hennessy read several excerpts from the book to represent how her grandmother sought “salvation through beauty” and then invited the audience to ask questions and share their comments. Audience members inquired into who Dorothy Day was outside of The Catholic Worker, the realities of her family relationships, and Hennessy’s feelings of exposure or invasiveness when writing so intimately about the lives of others.

Read More


Hennessey, Kate. Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty: An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother. New York: Scribner, 2017. 

News Articles and Reviews

CNA Daily News. "Dorothy Day, as seen by her granddaughter." 2017.

Lewis, Peter. "'Dorothy Day,' portrayed by her granddaughter, is a hero but not a saint." 2017.

NPR. "An 'Intimate Portrait' Of Dorothy Day, The Catholic Activist With A Bohemian Past." 2017.

Schlumpf, Heidi. "'Don't just admire Dorothy Day,' says granddaughter." 2017. 

Steinfels, Peter. "Martyrs & Saints: 'Dorothy Day.'" 2017.

Valente, Judith. "Granddaughter’s memoir paints complicated portrait of would-be saint Dorothy Day." 2017.

In the News

Pope Francis has spoken highly of Dorothy Day for her "social activism and her passion for justice." Read Thomas Rosica's Atlantic article: "Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, MLK and Pope Francis: models of good citizenship" here.