Digitizing Social Justice: Advancing Knowledge of the American 20th Century Catholic Social Action Movement through Access to Correspondence, Oral Histories, and Publications of Dorothy Day, Ade Bethune, Fr. John Ryan, Fr. Paul Hanley Furfey, and Catholic Interracial Councils of New York, Washington, D.C., and the Twin Cities

Material Description

The John A. Ryan Papers were donated to The Catholic University of America by the Social Action Department of the National Catholic Welfare Conference and Lawrence Ryan in 1949 and 1950. The Catholic Interracial Council of New York donated its records to the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives in 1977. The Paul Philips Cooke papers, donated by Cooke in 2000, 2002, and 2005, include six linear feet of records focused primarily on the Catholic Interracial Council of the District of Columbia (CICDC). The Celestine Joseph Nuesse Papers, donated by Nuesse from 1994-1999, includes one linear foot of materials related to the CICDC. The Paul Hanly Furfey Papers includes .25 linear feet of material proposed for digitization related to Dorothy Day and Ade Bethune. These papers are part of Furfey's correspondence files. The materials were donated by Furfey and colleague Mary Elizabeth Walsh from 1983-1992.

Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin founded The Catholic Worker, a faith-based, grassroots movement for peace and social justice through nonviolent action. The Marquette University Special Collections and University Archives began to acquire the records of the movement in 1962. The entire collection spans over 200 linear feet, and includes personal papers of Day, Maurin and others; records of Catholic Worker communities; interviews; talks; television programs; and a wide variety of publications.

Ade Bethune donated her papers (almost 500 cubic feet), including a nearly complete run of The Catholic Worker, to St. Catherine University during the period 1984-2002. Judith Stoughton, CSJ, gave materials from her biography of Bethune and St. Joseph's House publications in 1990. St. Catherine University acquired the records of the Catholic Interracial Council of the Twin Cities (MN) in 2011 from the organization's first secretary, Pat Caponi (class of 1952). The collection includes correspondence, meeting minutes, and newsletters.


This collaborative project includes The Catholic University of America, Catholic Research Resources Alliance, Marquette University, and St. Catherine University. Over a period of three years (2016-2018) project partners will collectively digitize and make publicly available materials documenting Catholic social justice and action in the 20th century. The collections refer to each other, across holdings and across institutions. This project seeks to bridge the dispersed nature of these archival collections, creating critical connections for research in social justice. Materials selected will be digitized from holdings of the most significant activists and thinkers of the period, including Dorothy Day, Ade Bethune, John Ryan, the Catholic Interracial Council, and more. Source materials include diverse formats: correspondence, notebooks, diaries, manuscripts, press accounts, newsletters, newspapers, drawings, audio files, and photographs.


Digitizing Hidden Collections

Amount Awarded


Year Added



Marquette University


  • Ms. Amy Cooper Cary (Marquette University Libraries)
  • Ms. Jean
  • Ms.

Collaborating Institution(s)

The Catholic University of America (CUA); St. Catherine University (SCU); Catholic Research Resources Alliance (CRRA)

Date Range

1892 - 2016

Geographic Scope

United States, especially Washington D.C., New York, and Minnesota with lesser amounts from New England


  • 115.1 Mixed Archival Collections