New York: Albert and Charles Boni, 1924. 312, [i]p., first edition, first printing, original blue cloth with minor edge wear and slight bumping of corners, spine lettering slightly dulled, previous owner's name (Martha Lauz) on front free endpaper in light pencil, minor crease to title page, a few pages printed slightly off-center, overall in very good condition.
Autobiographical novel by the founder of the Catholic Worker movement, written at the age of 26 in the midst of an already tumultuous life before her conversion to Catholic pacifism. She regretted its publication and later sought to reclaim every copy she could find. Beginning from childhood, the novel incorporates Day's education and activism, experiences working at the Socialist Daily, the New York Call and the Masses (re-titled "The Flame" in the book), and deeply personal affairs including a portrait of Floyd Dell (as Hugh Brace), an account of an abortion, and a final monologue in which the central character realizes that her political activities and modern womanhood have distracted her from her truer goal of loving a man and becoming a mother. Walter Rideout lists this as one of three novels by "tired radicals" in the 1920s, placing it midway along Day's journey "From Union Square to Rome," as she described her path in an essay about her conversion. In his recent introduction to the book, Paul Bowers cites a passage from William Miller's autobiography describing Dorothy Day's feelings about the book half a century after its publication, in 1975: "She held out one book and asked, 'What should I do about this?' I knew the book. It was The Eleventh Virgin, her autobiographical novel. 'It’s all true,' she said. It was a book I knew that she hated and would have rejoiced if every copy could have been consumed in flames and then be forever put out of her mind. But now she stood there, holding out to me one of the few copies left. I said nothing. Dorothy was controlled, but I could tell by the pale, taut look in her face that the business of turning all of this material over to me was a moment of great stress and pain for her. She was, in a way, confronting history."