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Robert Coles first met Dorothy Day over thirty-five years ago when, as a medical student, he worked in one of her Catholic Worker soup kitchens. He remained close to this inspiring and controversial woman until her death in 1980. His book, an intellectual and psychological portrait, confronts candidly the central puzzles of her life: the sophisticated Greenwich Village novelist and reporter who converted to Catholicism; the single mother who raised her child in a most unorthodox ”family”; her struggles with sexuality, loneliness, and pride; her devout religious conservatism coupled with radical politics. This intense portrait is based on many years of conversation and correspondence, as well as tape-recorded interviews.
Dorothy Day died recently in New York City. With her death, the Catholic Worker Movement lost the last of its founders and leaders. In this insightful and well-documented study, Aronica answers the question whether and how the Movement has survived beyond the founders. Starting from the notion of charismatic leadership, the author converts the Catholic Worker Movement into a test case for the classical analysis of social organization. Through participant observation, Aronica uncovers and explains the system of power and authority, the process of incorporation and the services provided to the poor by the Catholic Worker Movement. The Movement's paper, the Catholic Worker, was used to help provide a typology of membership categories. The book is more than a study in the transformation of charismatic leadership; it is also a study of the place of radical social thought within American Catholicism. Aronica shows the problems that the church structure has with grass-roots activities. She also illustrates the difficulty that a grass-roots organization has in transforming itself into a functioning bureaucracy. The book adds a new organizational dimension to the growing number of books on social movements. It is well suited for an audience interested in the sociology of religion and for those concerned with a fruitful application of modern ethnographic research to classical frameworks.