May 20, 1947 |
New York, USA
|Charge(s)||Conspiring to bomb a federal building and jumping bail; contempt of court|
|Penalty||27 months in prison; 4 months in prison|
Jane Lauren Alpert (born May 20, 1947) is an American former far left radical who conspired in the bombings of eight government and commercial office buildings in New York City in 1969. Arrested when other members of her group were caught planting dynamite in National Guard trucks, she pleaded guilty to conspiracy, but a month before her scheduled sentencing jumped bail and went into hiding.
After four and a half years of wandering the country working at low-level jobs under false names, she surrendered in November 1974 and was sentenced to 27 months in prison for the conspiracy conviction. In October 1977 she was sentenced to an additional four months imprisonment for contempt of court, for refusing to testify at the 1975 trial of another defendant in the 1969 bombings.
During her fugitive years, Alpert saw that the radical left was in decline and began to identify with radical feminism, mailing a manifesto to Ms. Magazine, along with a set of her fingerprints to authenticate it. That document, Mother Right: A New Feminist Theory, denounced "the sexual oppression of the left" and detailed her conversion from militant leftist to radical feminist.
Alpert attended Swarthmore College, majoring in Classics and graduating with honors in 1967 after developing an interest in radical politics. She did graduate work at Columbia University but dropped out after the 1968 student uprising. She wrote for Rat Subterranean News, a New York City underground newspaper and became involved with the Black Panther movement. Her autobiography Growing up Underground was published in 1981.
Alpert was born in May 1947 and grew up in the New York City area. Her grandparents, who were Jewish, came from Russia to escape the pogroms. One of her grandfathers gave up his orthodox faith after coming to America and became a socialist in the 1930s. Jane Alpert’s mother graduated from high school at fourteen and then graduated from Hunter College at eighteen. When she was three years old her parents had their second child, Andrew. Andrew was born with several birth defects, including a severed optic nerve that caused him to be legally blind. According to Jane, "Skip (Andrew) survived, with above-average intelligence, but almost blind, with respiratory difficulties and permanently stunted physical growth. I remember him as a large, inert lump who took all my mother's time and attention."
In 1956, her father took a job as vice-president of the Linz Glass Company in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. “It was there that Jane Alpert first became aware of the fact that she was an outsider, not only because she was Jewish, but also because she was from the city and unaccustomed to country ways." When she was twelve they moved back to New York and she felt like an outsider once again.
Jane Alpert graduated from Forest Hills High School two years before her graduating class and attended Swarthmore College. She continued to do well academically, read constantly, and began to make friends. Among other influential books were those of Ayn Rand. Alpert was involved in her first demonstration in the fall of her first year of college. Alpert had attended Columbia graduate school but had not been active in the movement there. In April 1968 Alpert became involved in the Strike Committee’s Community Action Committee that started the Columbia Tenants Union. The committee attempted to mobilize more community residents to actively resist Columbia’s “gentrification” policies.
Life as a radical leftist
The New York Times wrote that, "Jane Lauren Alpert, who pleaded guilty May 4 to being part of a conspiracy to bomb Federal office buildings here last fall, was declared yesterday to have forfeited her $20,000 bail. The reason was that she violated the conditions of bail by not checking in with the United States Attorney's office this week."
As a fugitive, Alpert saw that the radical left was in decline and began to identify with radical feminism, once mailing a feminist manifesto to Ms. Magazine along with a set of her fingerprints. After four years of wandering the country working at low-level jobs under false names, she surrendered in November 1974 and was sentenced to 27 months in prison for the conspiracy conviction. In October 1977 she was sentenced to an additional four months imprisonment for contempt of court, for refusing to testify at the 1975 trial of Patricia Swinton, another defendant in the 1969 case.
Alpert attended Swarthmore College, graduating with honors in 1967 after developing an interest in radical politics. She did graduate work at Columbia University but quit after the 1968 student uprising. She wrote for Rat, a New York City underground newspaper, and had become involved with the Black Panther Party by the time she met Melville in 1968. Her autobiography Growing up Underground was published in 1981.
After graduating from Swarthmore, Alpert took a job as an editor in a publishing firm and she started graduate work at Columbia University. Alpert met Sam Melville at the CAC (Community Action Coalition). Melville and Alpert became more involved with politics and they became romantically involved as well. The pair was involved with several bombings. Melville and Alpert quickly moved in together. Alpert moved to the Lower East Side to live with Melville at his apartment. "On the Lower East Side Alpert began writing for Rat." In her book, Alpert says that Melville was able to turn insults into compliments. “His voice suggested helpless lust, as though his accusation of wanton sexuality were also an admission of my power over him." Alpert became drawn into the world of radical politics which she had always watched from the outside. “If Sam had been the most conventional, straight-laced businessman, I would have found his affection hard to resist. The combination of sexual love and radical ideology was more than irresistible. It consumed me. After a few weeks with Sam, it was obvious to me that I was going to quit graduate school." Alpert was involved with several bombings and was the person who wrote communiqués in 1971 that were released to the press.
Alpert lived underground while Melville was incarcerated. Alpert learned that her former romantic partner had died at Attica Prison, in New York in 1971. She wrote an epitaph that was published in the Rat.
Mother Right (1974)
In 1974 Alpert wrote Mother Right: A New Feminist Theory Her audience was women involved in the Feminist Media. Alpert had been underground for three years when she released her piece for publication. “I regard this piece as a distillation of what I have learned in these three years. The piece describes the process by which I became a feminist, and devotes a fair amount of space to my vision for the future, for you, for myself, for the planet.” In Alpert’s letter she says that the first part is in the form of an open letter to, “my sister-fugitives in the Weather Underground.” The second part of the piece is structured around, “my political/religious vision as a feminist and as a woman.”  Alpert became a fugitive in May 1970 a few days before her schedule sentence for conspiracy to bomb military and war related corporate building in Manhattan. At that time she was not a member of the Weathermen and she was never part of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society). “For now, I only want to set the scene of my renewed acquaintance with the Weather Underground by saying that when it occurred, I was decisively through with the left and had, at least mentally, rededicated myself to the cause of a revolution made by and for women.”
Weathermen claimed responsibility for at least twenty bombings between 1970 and 1975. Alpert was involved with several bombings and was the person who wrote the letters that were released to the press. Alpert was charged with bombing eight government and corporate office buildings during a three-month bombing spree. The bombings occurred in 1969. Targets included:
- Chase Manhattan
- New York Federal Building
- Standard Oil
- General Motors
- Marine Midland Bank
- Foley Square
- New York Police Headquarters
- United States Capitol
- United States State Department
- Armed Forces Induction Center
- New York Corporate Office
Alpert planted a bomb on the floor of the New York Federal Building which housed U.S. military. Alpert said that she felt a sense of hyperawareness surrounding her and she felt happy and fearful at the same time. Alpert watched the bomb go off from a distant building and she felt that the 2 A.M. eruption brought the revolution an inch or two closer. Alpert said that "the bombings had made us the toast of the movement and the talk of all New York. ... Weighed in the balance against the fear of arrest was the anticipated thrill that we would soon be openly celebrated as heroes."
Relations with members of the WUO
When Alpert was arrested in 1969 with Sam Melville and two others in regards to the 1969 bombings, Alpert’s parents bailed her out, and with the advice of others, Alpert forfeited the $20,000.00 bail and went underground. Jane Alpert was not arrested for the New York Corporate Office bombing and was still wanted. While underground Alpert got in contact and met with Mark Rudd. While with Rudd, the pair got pulled over by a police officer, but they gave false identification papers and were let off. From there Alpert visited Bernardine Dohrn in San Francisco at the Golden Gate Bridge. The following day, Dohrn and Alpert went to Mt. Tamalpais to speak to a group of women. The two parted ways and Dohrn gave Alpert Kathy Boudin’s address. Alpert headed back to the east coast and stopped in Boston to visit Boudin. Although Boudin and Alpert argued over the new left movement. Alpert was impressed with the Weathermen and said, “Nothing was more important to them than staying together.”
Jane Alpert turned herself in on November 17, 1974 at the Office of the United States Attorney in New York City after being underground for four and a half years. According to New York Times and Time Magazine, Alpert was sentenced to 27 months in prison for bombing conspiracy and jumping bail. Alpert said that the “plea was not a copout.” Jane Alpert’s admission of her deviance – inherently part of the act of surrender – was bolstered by her statement that she returned from underground because “it was the right thing to do” Alpert said. "It wasn't a political thing—just a purely pragmatic choice on our part."
Jane Alpert affirmed her ongoing commitment to political activism and did not offer regrets about the actions she had undertaken in the past. She declared that she and her co-conspirators “believed they were acting morally; that if anyone was doing anything concrete to stop the war it was us.” Contrary to some reports, Alpert was not a member of the Weather Underground, although she knew several people who were. In Alpert’s surrender statement she mentioned work in the feminist movement as a major goal. Alpert also differentiated between her self now and her self then in her surrender statement. Alpert explained her role in the bombings as “craziness,” and suggested that her relationship with Sam Melville was a catalyst for her actions.
Alpert acknowledged her feminism which provided evidence that she would not engage in the same activities now that she did then because of a heightened awareness of power relationships in the male-female interactions. At Alpert’s surrender her attorney said, “She is no longer in the grip of the mistaken ideology which caused her to flee; the war is over and the man with whom she was in love and for whom she pleaded guilty is now dead.”
Growing Up Underground (1981)
Jane Alpert wrote Growing up Underground in 1981. Her book is a confessional memoir where she writes about her experiences as a political activist. Alpert wrote the book to set the record straight about her personal role in the bombings of buildings in New York City in 1969 and her life underground in the early 1970s. Alpert explains what happened in 1969 and how she got involved in the Weather Underground Organization. She writes about her misunderstood childhood and her account of her life underground. She was supported by her family and friends financially while she lived underground. Mary Moylan wrote a critique of Alpert’s book that was published in Jonah Raskin’s book, “The Weather Eye” Communiqués from the Weather Underground. (1974 Murray Kempton also wrote a critical review of Alpert’s book for The New York Review of Books.
- Treaster, Joseph B (1969-11-13). "Court Building Bombed; F.B.I. Seizes 2 at Armory; Blast Rocks Court Building; 2 Seized at Armory". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-22. "A bomb extensively damaged a part of the fifth floor of the New York City Criminal Courts Building last night in the fourth explosion in a Manhattan public building in two days."
- Ranzal, Edward (1969-11-19). "4 Indicted in Bombings Here; U.S. Keeps Its Evidence Sealed". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-24. "In a simple one-count indictment returned quickly yesterday by a Federal grand jury, three men and a woman were charged with conspiring to destroy Government property with bombs made from stolen dynamite."
- "Jane Alpert's Bail In Bomb-Plot Case Declared Forfeited". The New York Times. 1970-05-15. Retrieved 2007-11-23. "Jane Lauren Alpert, who pleaded guilty May 4 to being part of a conspiracy to bomb Federal office buildings here last fall, was declared yesterday to have forfeited her $20,000 bail. The reason was that she violated the conditions of bail by not checking in with the United States Attorney's office this week."
- Franks, Lucinda (1975-01-14). "The 4-Year Odyssey of Jane Alpert, From Revolutionary Bomber to Feminist". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-23. "Jane Alpert says she made the transition from revolutionary bomber to feminist during a four-year underground odyssey that took her across the United States and thrust her into such roles as ski-lodge waitress, medical technician, and counselor at an Orthodox Jewish high school."
- Lubasch, Arnold H (1977-10-07). "Jane Alpert Given Four-Month Term". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-23. "Jane L. Albert, who served 20 months in prison for her part in a 1969 conspiracy to bomb buildings in New York, received an additional four-month sentence yesterday despite a vehement renunciation of her radical past."
- "Underground Odyssey". Time Magazine. 1975-01-27. Retrieved 2007-11-23. "When she was arrested, the newspapers blossomed with tales of "the girl next door" who went wrong. Like many a militant leftist who turned to antiwar violence in the faraway '60s, Jane Alpert was a model student, a troubled romantic and a political naïf."
- Alpert, Jane. Mother Right: A New Feminist Theory. "The first part is in the form of an open Letter to my sister-fugitives in the Weather Underground. However, I intend it to be meaningful to many other women, and particularly women working in the left or on left causes. I expose hitherto unknown information about the Weather Underground, not merely to shock but to challenge other women to confront the oppression we face in the left. I urge women to leave the left and leftist causes and begin working for women, for ourselves."
- Alpert, Jane (1981). Growing Up Underground, The Astonishing Autobiography of a Former Radical Fugitive. New York: William Morrow. "I couldn't have known back in 1968 that my real fight was against male supremacy, not capitalism, or that my real allies were not the men in the radical left, but other women."
- Sanders (2002)
- Alpert (1981)
- Feldman (2007)
- New York Times (1970)
- Time Magazine (1975)
- Weissman (1982)
- Alpert (1974)
- Foss (1992) 129
- Varon (2004) p.120
- Treaster (1969)
- Jacobs (1997) p.144
- Jacobs (1997) 144
- Jacobs (1997) p.145
- Foss (1992) p.129
- Time Magazine (1970)
- Foss (1992) 135
- Foss (1992) p.132
- Foss (1992) 132
- Foss (1992) p.133
- Alpert, Jane. “Growing up Underground.” William Morrow & Co. *New York, 1981.
- Alpert, Jane. “Mother Right: A New Feminist Theory”. Know, Inc. * Pittsburgh, 1974.
- Berger, Dan. “Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity.” AK Press: *Oakland, California, 2006.
- Feldman, Bob (2007). Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories. New York: Columbia University.
- Foss, Karen. :Out From Underground: The Discourse of Emerging Fugitives”. Western Journal of Communication Association. 1992.
- Franks, Lucinda. The New York Times. January 1, 1975. "The 4-Year Odyssey of Jane Alpert, From Revolutionary Bomber to Feminist" link
- Jacobs, Ron. “The Way The Wind Blew.” Verso: New York, New York, 1997.
- Treaster, Joseph. “Court Buildings Bomwbed; FBI Seizes 2 at Armory; Blast Rocks Court Building; 2 Seized at Armory”, The New York Times, 1969-11-13.
- Varon, Jeremy. “Bringing the War Home: The Weather Underground, The Red Army Faction, and Revolutionary Violence In the Sixties and Seventies”. University of California Press: Berkeley, California, 2004.
- Weissman, Judith. "Jane Alpert's Defense", The New York Review of Books, March 18, 1982. link
- Jane Alpert: Early Life link
- Rev. Robert J. Sanders. December 2002. Jane Alpert, "Growing Up Underground." link
- Vanderbilt Television News Archive link
- The New York Times. October 25, 1980. “A Bombers Confession.” By Eden Ross Lipson; link
- The New York Times. May 15, 1970.“Jane Alpert’s Bail In Bomb-Plot Case Declared Forfeited”.
- Time Magazine. May 18, 1970. “A Good Deal.” link
- Time Magazine. “Underground Odyssey”. January 27, 1975. link
- FBI files: Weather Underground Organization (Weatherman).
- Full text of the book The Way The Wind Blew, by Ron Jacobs (1997) about the Weather Underground Organization.
- Eager, Paige Whaley. From Freedom Fighters to Terrorists. England: Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 2008 (See pages 45–49 regarding Jane Alpert).