Got any good Dorothy Day letters?

Marquette University special collections archivist Phil Runkel is looking for original letters from Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day.

He’s collecting the letters for possible inclusion in a volume being edited by Robert Ellsberg, who published “The Duties of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day” in 2008. Publication of the new book is set for August 2010.

“Our concern is that there are letters in people’s attics that they’re unaware of or may not be aware of the significance of them,” Runkel said of the effort to widen the search beyond Catholic Worker circles.

So far, Runkel has collected about 600 letters. But he believes thousands more exist.

“Considering the number of people who wrote to her and the number of people she did respond to, it’s just a fraction,” he said.

Of course, not all of Day’s letters have been saved. Runkel tells of an heir of a friend of Day who didn’t approve of her public actions to protest war and injustice and threw her letters into the trash.

Runkel has letters from Day dating back as far as 1923. He’s looking for earlier writings, especially from the World War I era when Day lived the bohemian life amid the New York literary scene. Correspondence from the early days of the Catholic Worker in New York’s Bowery District in 1933 also are being sought.

If you’ve got any letters you’d like to share, Runkel would be happy to hear from you. He’ll help arrange to get the originals or copies if you call (414) 288-5903 or e-mail him at

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