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Siena Center Lecture, Kate Hennessy on Legacy of Her Grandmother Dorothy Day

Thursday, October 12, 2017

​The Siena Center will present a lecture by Kate Hennessy on the legacy of her famous grandmother, Dorothy Day, on Thursday, December 7 at the Priory Campus Auditorium. The lecture, "The World Will be Saved by Beauty," which is based on Hennessy's recent book, will be presented at 7 p.m. 

Hennessy appeared on WBEZ's Worldview program on December 4 to discuss her book, which will form the basis of her Siena Center talk. You can listen to the program here.

 In her lecture, Hennessy will present the story of her grandmother as well as her mother, Tamar Hennessy, as drawn from diaries, family letters and memories. Like her grandmother, Hennessy is a prolific writer whose work was included in the 2002 Best American Travel Writing collection.

Dorothy Day (1897-1980) was a prominent Catholic writer, social activist and co-founder, with Peter Maurin, of the national Catholic Worker Movement. She led a life of service to the poor, peaceful protest against social injustice, and prayer. With Maurin, she established "houses of hospitality" throughout the country to feed and shelter the poor and launched in 1933 the Catholic Worker newspaper, which she edited until her death. 

Day was involved in numerous acts of civil disobedience throughout her life. She was arrested in 1917 in front of the White House for protesting women's exclusion from the electorate—she and her fellow suffragists responded with a hunger strike that ended only when they were freed by presidential order. She was among the founders of the Committee of Catholics to Fight Anti-Semitism but maintained a strict pacifist stance during World War II. She also was involved in the civil rights movement and was shot at while protecting a community house in Georgia that had been under attack by the Ku Klux Klan. At the age of 75, she was jailed for the last time, for taking part in a picket line in support of farmworkers. 

At their 2012 annual meeting, the Catholic bishops of the United States unanimously recommended her canonization. Speaking before the U.S. Congress in 2014, Pope Francis singled her out as one four Americans, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Merton, he especially admired. 

However, Day's allegiance to her radical activism often made life challenging for her family, including her only child, Tamar, who was born out of wedlock shortly before her parents separated. In her book, Hennessy depicts the reality behind the "saint" and corrects some of the misrepresentations of her family. She will share some of those memories and stories during her lecture.

For more information about this program, please contact Rachel Hart Winter, director of the Siena Center, at rhartwinter@dom.edu.